For the next few weeks, we'll be evaluating many of the new fall shows as they air. After a quiet week, a few more new shows are trickling in. It seems like the networks are saving the best for last, but unfortunately, Vanessa Williams' 666 Park Avenue already premiered over a week ago.
Nashville, Wednesdays, 10 p.m. ET, ABC
One-sentence description: A little bit about Eve, a little bit about women in rock and roll and a whole lotta country.
How good is it?: So good! Critics agree, audiences tuned in and this show deserves every adoring eyeball that it attracts. At its heart is a discussion of the way we treat our female entertainers. It explores the time when when a woman's age becomes a hindrance on her popularity, and it wonders how much youth forgives lacking artistry. We have these discussions a lots thinkers, consumers and even entertainers (in interviews), we have these discussions a lot, but it's rare that it happens within a piece of actual pop culture. Hayden Panettiere plays Juliette Barnes, the bitchy ingenue who knows exactly how much of an upper hand her youth gives her and throws it right in the face of Rayna James, a 40-year-old Reba-esque singer whose career is on the wane. And what a face it is — Connie Britton plays Rayna. She is one of the only actresses her age that actually looks her age. Her seemingly untouched face is a dialogue about aging in pop culture in itself. It's bold and beautiful.
After Friday Night Lights and American Horror Story, Britton has once again chosen material that warrants obsessing. The woman has taste coming out of her pores, a class act through and through.
Best joke: Rayna to execs who urge her to consider touring with Juliette to boost her profile/slow ticket sales: "You can kiss my decision as it's walking out the door." This reminds me that there are not enough sassy women on TV to tell us where to kiss.
What's annoying about it: Nothing really, although the subplot about Rayna's husband's political career seems a little rote. I get the feeling that we're supposed to agree with Rayna that her music is better than Juliette's, but their offerings sounded equally disposable to me. Maybe perception-altering bias is the point, though.
Also, country music is one of the few genres where an older artist can still have a bona fide hit (Reba had a No. 1 in 2010 on the singles chart, for example). But at the same time, that doesn't mean it's easy: No solo woman on Billboard's current Top 25 Country Songs chart is over 29. As fascinating as it would be to see a Madonna figure grapple with age in a less forgiving genre, it's clear that times are tough across the board.
Is it worth watching again?: Yes, duh. It's rarely boring and it occupies a comfortable space between thought-provoking and zone-out fare. Perfectly balanced so far.
Arrow, Wednesdays, 8 p.m. ET, The CW
One-sentence description: Batman minus the bats plus green, arrows and obscene abs.
How good is it?: It is I'll-read-it-but-I'm-not-collecting-it comic book good. After a mysterious boat wreck, Oliver Queen spent about five years on a remote island that, given his musculature, grew protein on trees and trained him so that he could return to his hometown and become a second-rate Batman, all gadgetry and wealth and daddy issues and knowing servants and social responsibility that doesn't necessarily jibe with that of the police. OK, whatever. We all like Batman. We can hang.
Best joke: Oliver: "Which one is she?" Friend: "The one who looks like the chick from Twilight." Oliver: "What's Twilight?" Friend: "You're better off not knowing."
What's annoying about it: It's brainless action, heavy on the brainlessness. The joke above is about the only flash of the toll that being divorced from society has taken on Oliver...unless he wasn't actually divorced from society when he was on that island? I don't know, we'll see. It's a little annoying to have to deal with slow-release origin story, but that's TV for ya. If we were at the movies, we wouldn't be watching as minor of a D.C. character as the Green Arrow, anyway.
Stephen Amell plays Oliver/Arrow. He looks like a composite of Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth and sounds like a composite of a piece of AstroTurf and rubber cement. That is OK, though — his pneumatic muscles compensate for his flat line delivery.
Is it worth watching again?: Yes. It's going to be a while before we get another superhero movie. Though Arrow is dumb, it's sharply timed. And those abs!