"According to Jim" notwithstanding, TV has never been better. Serial dramas like "Lost" and astute sitcoms like "The Office" are a big step up from the shenanigans of "My Mother the Car." College schedules, however, are rarely made with Fox's lineup in mind, and undergrads often find themselves at the library when they should be tuning in to the Jack Bauer Power Hour. Fortunately, quality programming doesn't stop after Conan, and even the latest-cramming student can still catch these 5 after-midnight gems….


Thank YOU for being a friend, Lifetime network! With the pool of "Simpsons" reruns growing more and more diluted with duds from the last 4 seasons, and Michael Richards's less-than-thoughtful comments on racial politics in the United States making "Seinfeld" awkward to watch, the four geriatric nymphomaniacs who shag their way through "The Golden Girls" like a quartet of post-menopausal Carrie Bradshaws provide the last vestiges of quality after-hours comedy for the unfortunate masses whose cable packages exclude TV Land.


During business hours, MTV tends to devote its programming to keeping Steve-O employed and getting gel-haired dating-show dudes with tribal tattoos laid. But while the "Laguna Beach" audience sleeps and dreams of a world in which Kyndra doesn't make out with Tessa's boyfriend at the bonfire party, Kurt Loader apparently rises from his tomb and broadcasts an eclectic lineup of music videos so reminiscent of the network's golden age you'll be humming Soundgarden for weeks.


Just set it and forget it! Okay, so we were all scammed into dropping 6 payments of $29.95 on Ron Popeil's Pasta Maker, only to have the appliance sit unused in our kitchen as a cruel reminder of our drunken, 3 a.m. investment.  But without Popeil's Showtime Rotisserie, how else would we cook a 10-pound rib roast in less than an hour? And without his 3-hour commercials, how would we know it includes a free 20-piece, stainless steel cutlery set? Ali beat grill-tycoon George Foreman in the ring back in '74, now it's Popeil's turn to throw down (in the competitive marketplace of kitchen appliances, that is).


Missed this morning's "SportsCenter?" And the 11 a.m. one? And I actually think there's a 6 o'clock one, as well. Missed all those? Dude, you should get your shit together. But until then you can see the 2 a.m. broadcast and catch enough of the day's sports highlights to appear masculine if the Mobil clerk asks you who won last night's Browns-Steelers game. And unlike the stiff, artificial hosts of typical morning news shows, the "SportsCenter" anchors are genuinely entertaining to watch — specifically Chris Berman, the alleged swinger who invented the now-infamous pickup line, "You're with me, leather."


Who needs Cinemax when you have an entire series of DVDs devoted to the drunken foreplay of sun-burnt sorority sisters in a Cancun shower to steel drum music? And who even needs the DVDs when Comedy Central leases its 2 a.m. slot to promote Joe Francis's soft-core video empire? Sure, the infomercials are edited for the standards of basic cable, but a censored "Girls Gone Wild" commercial beats an uncensored episode of "The L Word" anytime — besides, we watch it for the articles.