Two of TV's best new pilots air tonight with the debuts of "Arrow" (CW, 8 p.m.) and "Nashville" (ABC, 10 p.m.) NBC's "Chicago Fire" also debuts at 10 p.m., but I haven't seen the pilot, so I can't say how good or not good it is.
I didn't have that high of expectations for either "Arrow" or "Nashville" before I watched them. I worried that the former would face some of the same issues that the CW's "Smallville" faced, trying to marry a comic book into genre of television.
But the show surprised me with a sort of gritty realism that evokes "Batman Begins" and the first "Iron Man."
Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) is a rich party boy who spends more time being a male Paris Hilton than doing anything with his life. But when his yacht sinks, he's trapped on an island for five years, where he learns the art of the bow. Oliver realizes that the shipwreck was no accident and takes a vow to uncover corruption at the highest levels of Starling City.
"Arrow" is fast-paced and clever, and painted in a more realistic manner than most superhero adaptations. (This Green Arrow uses his arrows to kill if necessary).
I didn't have that many high hopes for "Nashville" either, given that it was supposed to be a soap opera-ish type show set in the world of country music. But then I watched the pilot, featuring the brilliant Connie Britton as an aging country music queen, and I have to say, I'm hooked.
Most critics are saying "Nashville" is the season's best new show, and I'd have to agree with them. The rivalry between Britton's character and a rising star played by Hayden Panetierre, could have devolved into a soap style cattiness, but the actresses and writers give the characters real depth.
A great supporting cast, including Powers Booth as Britton's political giant father, also adds layers to the show. And even though I'm not a fan of the genre, the music is terrific.
As for "Chicago Fire," which stars Jesse Spencer as part of a fire brigade, I can't say much, except to say that it's going to have a hard time reaching the heights of "Rescue Me."
WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: "Arrow" precedes a new "Supernatural" (CW, 9 p.m.), while a new "The Middle," "The Neighbors" and two episodes of "Modern Family" lead in to "Nashville."
CBS is all-new with "Survivor," "Criminal Minds" and "CSI," while NBC airs "Animal Practice," "Guys With Kids" and "Law & Order: SVU" from 8-10 p.m. Fox rounds out the night with "X-Factor" from 8-10 p.m.