The fall TV season isn't what it used to be, which means there aren't many bests. But not to worry, most of the new dramas and sitcoms will soon be replaced by returning reality series like American Idol - and after that by a whole new crop of really bad dramas and sitcoms called midseason replacements.
Here's the season's best and worst:
Best newcomer: Amber Tamblyn as Joan Girardi in the CBS drama Joan of Arcadia.
The teen actress plays a high school student who moves with her family to a new town, Arcadia, and suddenly finds God talking to her. To make life even more complicated, God assumes a new identity every time he visits. Tamblyn not only pulls it off, she sells it well enough that 20 minutes into the pilot, you're buying her, the series and the idea of God as a good-looking boy (at least in the first episode) at her new school. (Premieres Sept. 26.)
Best traditional drama: NBC's The Lyon's Den.
For viewers looking for what critics have labeled "quality adult drama," this is the best bet. Not straying too far from his The West Wing persona, Rob Lowe plays a lawyer with a social conscience in a Washington law firm that otherwise looks like it could do with a major injection of ethics. (Premieres Sept. 28.)
Best sitcom pilot: NBC's Whoopi.
As much as I like this series with Whoopi Goldberg as owner of a small New York City hotel, I fear it won't last for two reasons. First, the PC police are probably going to be all over it for the edginess of its humor, and the quality won't be maintained episode to episode. There is already a fall-off from the pilot to the second episode. But I love the risks Goldberg, who is both star and executive producer, takes with ethnic humor. It's not enough to acknowledge and celebrate differences, we need to joke about them, too. This is one of the few network series that dares to do that. (Premieres Tuesday.)
Made-for-TV movie with most local interest: DC Sniper.
Charles Dutton stars as former Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose in the docudrama about the accused Beltway snipers John Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo. (Not available for preview. Premieres Oct. 17 on USA cable.)
Worst knockoff of a Brit drama: NBC's Coupling.
Why do they even bother? Can anyone remember what an awful knockoff the network did of the BBC's Cold Feet a few seasons back? No? It's just as well: This is worse. All of the edge and irony are gone in the American version of the BBC dramedy about six very good-looking acquaintances in their 30s. (Premieres Sept. 25.)
Worst attempt to tap straight into the unconscious: Tarzan.
On the surface, this WB drama is about the ways in which the life plan of a young female police detective (Sarah Wayne Callies) is upset when she comes face to face with the "jungle boy" (Travis Fimmel) brought to modern-day Manhattan. But it's really about teen longing and sexual desire - WB staples. The problem: Suspending disbelief is going to be a stretch even for 14-year-olds when they see Fimmel scrambling around like a chimp in the pilot. (Premieres Oct. 5.)