5. Rachel Allen
Host of the Cooking Channel's "Bake," she is the most appealing host on this very promising network. She makes everything seem easy (and having done some baking, I know that what she's doing only looks easy), loves her subject and loves teaching it. The cookery class segments that run through each episode showcase her finest skill - teaching. A program like this should really teach, and Rachel does. I think I'm going to make some Florence's Orange Cake tonight.
4. Alistair Appleton
I know, I know. Another person from the British Isles (don't worry - more are coming). I know Appleton's work from BBC's "Cash In The Attic,"where he is superhumanly engaging. It doesn't matter how off-the wall the subjects of a week's show might be (and there have been some batty folks on this show), Appleton's breezy accessibility, ease and poise are always on display.
3. Carl Sagan
1980's Cosmos was such a triumph that in my belief no program has surpassed it. Still completely watchable, deeply philosophical and deeply human, it was Sagan's intelligence, warmth and capacity to explain that remains the series' hallmark. Anyone who wants to know how to teach engagingly about difficult topics could do worse than have a watch of this program.
2. Clarkson, Hammond and May on BBC's Top Gear
Proof that a program can be about anything provided its presenters are engaging, and Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have engaging in excess. Essentially three middle-agish men behaving like 12-year-olds (being given triple dog dares by producers who are just as juvenile), Top Gear is nominally about cars. Its content is of the highest quality, but it is the relationship between these three guys that make Top Gear the most informative and funniest show on TV.
1. James Burke
Oh, James, with your fashionable leisure suits and penchant for fine dining on remote mountaintops. As good as Cosmos was, in many respects Connections was even better, because it not only does science, but society, culture and predictive futurism. Watch the first episode of Connections and you'll see what I mean. Burke was on to something - something that lots of us are thinking about these days. I don't think his recent series have been anywhere near in quality to Connections and The Day The Universe Changed, but Burke himself is and remains the best presenter there is.