Worst New TV & r & & r & by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & Early fall is an exciting, disappointing time to be a TV fan. The best new shows won't show their true luster for weeks, but the worst are already totally obvious. Here are the early losers, in no order other than the bile they stir in me.

Cavemen (ABC, Tuesdays, 8 pm)

Cavemen sucks. Not because it's the spawn of an advertising campaign, but because the commercials are better than the show can ever be. Where the ads were clever satires on institutionalized bigotry and otherness, the series sculpts the cavemen as symbols for vapid, oversexed youth. The shift in metaphor makes the series blandly amusing but robs the conceit of its teeth.

Private Practice (ABC, Wednesday, 9 pm)

For a couple years, Gray's Anatomy had redeemable qualities. It was sappy and it wrung the doctors-in-a-hospital paradigm for all the schmaltz and tears it could manage, but insanity and pathos were afoot. Then everything went away but the schmaltz. Private Practice, which spun off at the end of last season, is the worst of Gray's Anatomy with an added "Why can't we successful women find love?" angle.

Big Bang Theory (CBS, Mondays at 8:30 pm)

It's difficult to mock subgroups in a funny way. Especially when that group is ultra-wired, hyper-literate geeks. You wanna make a physics joke, you either go over everyone's head or you name-drop someone blas & eacute; like Marie Curie. It ain't smart. It ain't funny.

Center it on a smart-guy-wants-hot-dumb-girl plot, and you've got a fish out of water comedy that doesn't even appeal to the fish.

Bionic Woman (NBC, Wednesdays, 9 pm)

I never thought I'd see anything as sad as watching poor, hot Lindsey Wagner run and jump and punch in super-slow motion in the original Bionic Woman. Then I saw the squashed, cartoony CG of the new Bionic Woman.

Bad FX, cloying relationship contrivances, a whack bionic nemesis, and some truly horrible dialog makes this the worst of a bad new bunch.


Kitchen Nightmares

Why are we attempting to humanize Gordon Ramsay? He's a dick, so let him stay that way. Hell's Kitchen is the only show in the jerk-for-a-host genre that works for me. Don't ruin it. Also: Let the crappy restaurants Ramsay's trying to help go out of business. Wheat from chaff. (Fox, Thursdays, 9 pm)

Back to You

I didn't like Kelsey Grammar as Frasier Crane in Cheers; I loved him as Frasier Crane in Frasier. Now it's back to hating him as Chuck Darling, the Crane-esque news anchor who's long on hubris but short on hair and career opportunities. Back in Pittsburgh, where he started his career, he faces off with an old co-star and flame (Patricia Heaton, also bad). (Fox, Wednesdays, 8 pm)


Boring and obtuse, Journeyman is Quantum Leap without Max to guide us. No one knows why reporter Dan Vassar is hopping back to key moments of his life. And after 30 minutes, no one cares. Kevin McKidd's centurion saved Rome for me. His Vassar can't do the same. (NBC, Mondays, 10 pm)

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