Jonny Lee Miller

"Eli Stone" (9 p.m., Ch. 4) is the best new show to come along this year. And that would, in all likelihood, be true even if we weren't in the middle of this writers' strike.

It's engaging, intriguing, funny and heartfelt. It's got great writing, likable stars and characters you quickly connect with.

It's a little offbeat, but that just adds to its charm.

Eli Stone (Jonny Lee Miller) is a tough, successful lawyer who starts having hallucinations. Who wouldn't be unsettled if George Michael was suddenly singing "Faith" in their living room?

It could be stress. It could be the inoperable brain aneurysm his doctor/brother (Matt Letsher) discovers. Or it could be, as his acupuncturist (James Saito) suggests, that Eli is having visions and he's some kind of prophet.

"Yeah, I was shocked, too," Eli says.

This is not a show that in any way mocks religion. The visions are clues that point him in the direction of using his legal skills to help people who really need help.

And Eli, who thinks he doesn't believe in God, is rethinking his lack of faith.

Of course, it isn't easy for a shark-like lawyer to suddenly become a prophet, or whatever it is he is. It certainly unsettles his fiancee, Taylor (Natasha Henstridge). And Eli doesn't want his future father-in-law, Jordan (Victor Garber) — who's also his boss — to find out.

Eli tries to hide the truth from his sassy assistant, Patti (Loretta Devine, who's, well, divine in the role). Patti doesn't like Taylor — she even brings Eli "a please-break-off-your-engagement, I'm-begging-you present."

Executive producer/creator/writer Greg Berlanti ("Everwood," "Jack & Bobby") already has two of the best shows on TV this season — "Brothers & Sisters" and "Dirty Sexy Money." Now he's teamed up with executive producer/creator/writer Marc Guggenheim ("Brothers & Sisters," "Law & Order,""The Practice") for a show that's fresh, original and heartfelt.

"Eli Stone" can make you laugh and make you cry, almost in the same moment.

In tonight's premiere, Eli represents Beth (Laura Benanti), who's suing a drug conglomerate she holds responsible for her young son's autism.

"We're going to lose, aren't we?" Beth says.

"I'm sorry if my repeatedly telling you how we had no chance of winning got your hopes up," Eli replies.

Turns out the George Michael song is a clue to Eli's past with Beth. And it's a clue about what he has to do in this seemingly unwinnable case.

"Make no mistake, this is very much a case about faith," Eli tells the jury.

As is "Eli Stone," in its own quirky way.

LOST IS BACK, and if you're expecting answers anytime soon, don't hold your breath.

But who cares?

Yes, the show was frustrating to the point of giving up on it altogether for a while. But since the middle of last season things have improved dramatically. What with an end date in sight — 48 more episodes — the writers have found their way again.

After an hourlong episode (7 p.m., Ch. 4) that recaps what's happened to date, "Lost" begins its forth season with an episode (8 p.m., Ch. 4) titled "The Beginning of the End." I don't want to give too much away, but rescuers of some kind reach the island; six survivors will get off the island; some people will die (which doesn't, of course, mean we'll never see them again); and mysteries will deepen.

Oh, and after three seasons of flashbacks, we're going to get a bunch of flash-forwards. Which, in the first couple of episodes, will give us a bunch of tantalizing clues ... but no firm answers.

Those are coming. Eventually. Just maybe not as quickly as planned. We were supposed to get three 16-episode seasons, but only eight episodes were completed this season before the writers' strike began.

But they're coming. And, in the meantime, "Lost" is still wildly intriguing and only somewhat aggravating.

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