Eric Dane, Grey's Anatomy
Why him? Look no further than this season’s second episode, in which Dane — aka Dr. Mark “McSteamy” Sloan — emerges from Addison’s hotel bathroom in a cloud of steam, and not much else. “I had a towel on,” says the real-life hubby of Vanished star Rebecca Gayheart. “We also had to use double-stick tape.” Ouch.
Masi Oka, Heroes
Why him? As Heroes’ Japanese salesman Hiro Nakamura, Oka steals the show with his hilarious one-liners and hit-and-miss attempts at honing his superpowers. When he’s not bending the space-time continuum as Hiro, Oka is a part-time programming consultant for George Lucas’ visual-effects company, Industrial Light & Magic, where he worked on the Pirates of the Caribbean series and Star Wars prequels. “I love being constantly occupied,” he says.
Mario Lopez, Dancing with the Stars
Why him? Whether he’s playing fast and loose with the ballroom-dancing rule book or keeping viewers guessing about his real relationship with his sultry partner, Karina Smirnoff, Lopez has become a lightning rod for controversy on DWTS. "We’re not trying to be [rebellious], at all," he says. "It’s just that I love to put in my little steps, make it more entertaining for the audience."
HOT AND BOTHERED
Hugh Laurie, House
Why him? Whether he’s calling Chase “Dr. Idiot” or informing Cuddy that she’s “ugly when she’s jealous,” House has been TV’s biggest pill for three seasons. We’re still addicted to his scalpel-sharp remarks.
Roselyn Sanchez, Without a Trace
Why her? As FBI agent Elena Delgado, Sanchez worked a stripper pole like a pro — for an undercover job, of course. “Roselyn has added a lot of heat,” says costar Poppy Montgomery. “Not only do the boys want to kiss her, so does one of the girls.” That’s hot!
Amanda Peet, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Why her? Besides the obvious, you mean? Sleek but still sexy, Peet’s NBS honcho Jordan McDeere is no stuffed suit. “She’s playing a studio head, but one with a lot of style,” praises TV Guide Channel’s Fashion Team guru David Evangelista. If only all network execs knew how to put together such winning ensembles — on and off screen.
Chris Daughtry's debut album
Why this? Produced by Howard Benson (who’s worked with Papa Roach and Hoobastank), the as-yet-untitled album (due out Nov. 21) features songs penned by the American Idol rocker, as well as collaborations with Brad Arnold (3 Doors Down), Carl Bell (Fuel) and others.
Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights
Why him? As Eric Taylor, coach of the mighty Dillon Panthers in a Texas town obsessed with football, Chandler is as tough as he is graceful — and even manages to look dapper in a cheap nylon windbreaker.
Jim, Pam and Roy, The Office
Why them? You didn’t expect Pam (Jenna Fischer) to just ditch fiancé Roy (David Denman) and live happily ever after with Jim (John Krasinski), did you? After all, the NBC comedy is only in its second full season. “Jim needed to figure out who he is, and Pam needed to do the same,” Fischer says. While Jim’s transferred to Dunder-Mifflin’s Stamford office, Roy is fighting to win back Pam. He’s dropped weight and looks great. What’s his secret? Must be those frozen chicken-or-fish wedding meals he eats for lunch every day.
The secret court on Shark
Why this? If you’re Michael Jordan, you have a regulation-size at-home basketball court. If you’re Sebastian Stark (James Woods), the lawyer who puts the teeth in Shark, you have your own personal courtroom to practice your cunning maneuvers. “I read about two or three high-profile law firms in Washington, D.C., that had [fake] courtrooms in their offices,” says Shark creator Ian Biederman. “But Sebastian is a guy who has tremendous resources, so I took the liberty of putting the courtroom in his house.”
HOT ON THE TRAIL
William Fichtner, Prison Break
Why him? "He is going to find these guys," Fichtner says of his Fox River 8-tracking Fed, Alexander Mahone. "But some of the things that Mahone has in the back of his closet — and in the back of his mind, the voices he is hearing about his own life — get in the way. When we come back from hiatus, somebody starts to look at Mahone and wonder a bit about him. The pieces start to come together, with a little bit of a backstory."
HOT NEW FACE
America Ferrera, Ugly Betty
Why her? How could you not love her? The swan behind Ugly Betty is the season’s biggest sweetheart, bringing a refreshing normality to a medium that’s overcrowded with the extra-petite set. “It’s not about her trying to conform,” says Ferrera, who hopes that her heroine will never be chic. “It’s more about her exploring what she likes about herself."
Dukie, Randy, Michael and Namond, The Wire
Why them? In their portrayal of middle-school teens caught in the sights of the Baltimore drug trade, the scarily talented Jermaine Crawford, Maestro Harrell, Tristan Wilds and Julito McCullum have viewers and critics raving. “Stunning” is producer Ed Burns’ take on the foursome’s professionalism. “I’d trade them for many an [adult] actor,” he says. Apparently HBO is pretty psyched, too, as it’s just ordered a fifth season.
Claire Forlani, CSI: NY
Why her? She seduced Death (aka Brad Pitt) in Meet Joe Black. But that's kid stuff compared to her latest achievement: Forlani has actually given Gary Sinise’s scowling Mac a reason to flash his pearly whites. Since her heart-stopping medical examiner Dr. Peyton Driscoll hit CSI: NY earlier this season, she and Mac have been keeping their love undercover, quietly charming fans who’d given up on seeing Mac happy.
Tracy Morgan, 30 Rock
Why him? His riotous alter ego, Tracy Jordan, is a bigger star than Morgan ever was on SNL. But 30 Rock could change all that. “Tracy Morgan is my muse,” says star Tina Fey. “I transcribe whatever he says and it comes out in our scripts: ‘Dress every day like you’re gonna get murdered in those clothes.’ You can’t beat that.”
Josh Henderson, Desperate Housewives
Why him? As Austin, the ne’er-do-well nephew of Nicollette Sheridan’s Edie, Henderson is setting off sparks with Julie (Andrea Bowen), the daughter of his aunt’s sworn enemy. With his face and bod, we’re surprised it wasn’t Eva Longoria’s Gaby who snatched him up first.
Jeri Ryan, Shark; Tim Daly, The Nine
Why them? Ever since she Borg'ed out as Voyager’s Seven of Nine, we’ve been over the moon for the vivacious Ryan. Her stint as Boston Public’s smokin’ teacher and her current gig as James Woods’ DA boss have proven she can heat up any line of work. And as for Daly, who wouldn’t want to join the mile-high club with the former Wings man? On The Nine, he’s a perfect 10.
Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals
Why him? The Bengals QB returned from the horrific knee injury he sustained in last season’s play-off against the Pittsburgh Steelers. After an off-season of rehab, he led Cincy to an emotional victory against the Steelers on Sept. 24.
Why there? The pilot’s gut-punching nuclear blast blew away viewers, who have been visiting the isolated town in droves. And the fallout is shaping up to be a crafty headscratcher of Lost proportions. How come an ex-cop knows so much about nukes? Were those other cities really blasted off the map? And who is Hawkins, anyway?
Not who you expected, huh? :o)