It's election season, and the choices are tough. Should you go with an old friend or the new Trump? Will you feel safe traveling to "LAX" or "Hawaii"? Sure, that presidential thing is important, but some of us will think almost as much about which fall shows to watch as we will about Bush vs. Kerry. So as a public service, NEWSWEEK is here to help with your TV ballot. Choose or lose:

Best #1: LOST (ABC)

"Lost" would be scary enough if it had stuck with its basic premise: a plane crashes on a deserted island, stranding dozens of (suspiciously photogenic) passengers. But J. J. Abrams ("Alias") doesn't do predictable drama. So just when the survivors are worrying about living off leftover pretzels, they encounter a beast that sounds like a T. rex. And a marauding polar bear. And someone else's distress signal, sent years ago. What is going on? Hard to say, but any show with this kind of imagination deserves to be seen. Even if ABC scheduled the adult "Lost" at 8 p.m. ET.

Best #2: JACK & BOBBY (WB)

The gimmick behind "Jack & Bobby" is that one of these teenage brothers with an Irish last name grows up to be president in 2041. It's a nifty hook, though it sometimes veers from portentous to pretentious. What really sets "Jack & Bobby" apart is the show's flinty family dynamic. Christine Lahti plays the boys' bitter, pot-smoking single mother. Watching her navigate parenthood--especially given who her son will become--proves to be fascinating, heartbreaking and often inspiring.


Single parents are the flavor of the month this TV season, but no one has it tougher than Keith Carradine. In "Complete Savages," Carradine is the father of five lazy, smelly, crude boys and a dog who eats dinner at the kitchen table. "Complete Savages" is hardly radical; it's a lot like a live-action version of "The Simpsons" populated exclusively with Homers and Barts. Sounds fun, doesn't it?

Best #4: LAX (NBC)

Why would viewers in our post-9/11 world want to watch a TV show set in an airport? Two words: Heather and Locklear. TV's ultimate guilty pleasure is at the top of her game as the hotheaded chief of the runways at Los Angeles International Airport. But her main battle is with the equally lovely Blair Underwood, a former lover who runs the airport terminal. Fasten your seat belts and enjoy the ride.

Best #5: JOEY (NBC)

Ten years ago who would have thought that simple-minded Joey Tribbiani would be the friend who got the spinoff? Let's be honest: "Joey" is no "Friends." But Matt LeBlanc is as adorably dense as ever, and as his sister, Drea de Matteo (late of "The Sopranos") already feels like family.

Worst #1: CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE (CBS) Never has so much talent been flushed down a single sitcom toilet. John Goodman, Jean Smart, Ed Asner and Olympia Dukakis star in yet another embarrassing copy of "Everybody Loves Raymond." This one comes complete with endless jokes about sexual supplements and pilates-enhanced butt cheeks. Alternately sappy and gross, "Center of the Universe" is so unfunny, even the laugh track sounds bored.


Reality-show rip-offs almost never work, and "The Benefactor" doesn't, either. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tries to become the new Donald Trump, taking on a group of 16 contestants who hope to persuade him to bestow $1 million on them. Hard as it may be to believe, Cuban actually looks funnier, talks funnier and is infinitely more annoying than the Donald. He eliminates contestants in such random and abrupt ways, you feel sorry for the losers.


As uninspired as its title. A nighttime soap set at a struggling ski resort, it stars Barbara Hershey as a matriarch fighting to keep the family's business out of the hands of evil real-estate developers. Oliver Hudson and Anson Mount play her dueling sons. If you have a taste for melodrama, save yourself the trouble and catch reruns of "Dallas" instead.


CBS isn't the only network cloning "C.S.I." NBC's "Medical Investigation" focuses on a team of doctors for the National Institutes of Health who use all sorts of whiz-bang technology to solve their cases, though here the culprit is some rare and lethal disease. The doctors usually succeed, of course, but in our world filled with anthrax threats and other weapons of mass destruction, happy endings still can't save the show from its inherently terrifying milieu. Even the actors, headed by Neil McDonough ("Boomtown") and Kelli Williams ("The Practice"), look scared to death. Would it kill someone on this show to smile just once?

Worst #5: HAWAII (NBC)

Despite its occasional allusions to "Hawaii Five-0," "Hawaii" feels more like "Miami Vice," only the guys are dumber and don't dress as well. "Hawaii" stars Ivan Sergei ("Jack and Jill") and Eric Balfour ("Six Feet Under") as a couple of cops who always seem to be on a high-speed chase around a hairpin turn. Needlessly gory and often impossible to follow, the show's modicum of personality is derived from the juvenile cop banter and lovely island scenery. The fall TV season may not be an out-and-out home run, but you can certainly do better than this.