Hart of Dixie (Tuesdays, 8 p.m.) - Zoe (Rachel Bilson) feels like a different character this year, but I like her more! Maybe it's confidence; maybe it's comfort; maybe it's just getting laid, but she seems freer and more fun, and I respond to that. Of course, I also respond to shirtless Wade (Wilson Bethel), which we've thankfully gotten a lot of already. And Lemon (Jaime King) being taken down a few pegs with her wedding being called off and her having to get a real job and grow the hell up has made her less of a cartoon, too. I still want to see more for George (Scott Porter is too good to waste!) and Lavon (Cress Williams), but I think we're on a nice path to get there.
Arrow (Wednesdays, 8 p.m.) - I will admit I overlook a few flawed things about this series as a whole because of how much I genuinely like and respect the people involved, but I wouldn't still be watching if the show wasn't hooking me week after week. I wish we saw more conflicted, PTSD Oliver (Stephen Amell) than focused vigilante stunt Arrow himself, but I think the balance between island flashbacks and Starling City sequences has been great and informative and never too on-the-nose. I'm also really looking forward to life without the voice-over now that Arrow has a buddy and a partner, and I am beginning to wonder if his dad gave him that list for a purpose he misinterpreted... Plus, Amell teased "the inverse of the salmon ladder" was still to come, and I don't know what that means, but I'm sure he will do it without a shirt, and I'm sure it will be nice!
Supernatural (Wednesdays, 9 p.m.) - This show has gotten back on track with a darkness and a richness and multiple complicated relationships in ways for which I could have only hoped. I love everything about the way Sam's (Jared Padalecki) life went when he had his year off, even if I don't fully understand what he saw in Amelia (Liane Balaban), and I love how Dean (Jensen Ackles) found a surrogate Sam in Benny (Ty Olsson). Now that they're all topside (and Cas will be soon, too), the best part of the show is watching these talented actors finesse interactions with each other that drive the current mythology and plot-driven scenes of hunting (monsters, demons, or down objects) but still inform the intensity of their personal situations. Fan favorite characters are returning; we've got some brand new awesome characters to want to know better; and Sam and Dean are being written in top shape. Talk about writing the wrongs!
The Vampire Diaries (Thursdays, 8 p.m.) - I've never been your average viewer or reviewer of this show. I never cared much about who Elena (Nina Dobrev) would choose romantically or otherwise. I never understood what kept Matt (Zach Roerig) around. I had a hard time adjusting to characters like Tyler (Michael Trevino) for no real discernable reason. I hated Alaric (Matt Davis). What I have always loved about the show, though, is the pacing and the pieces of mythology and history that get doled out in healthy doses. Of course no one does a better cliffhanger than Julie Plec. This season has already delivered on new challenges as Elena, and those around her, have to come to terms with her losing her humanity, but then Plec goes and throws something even more introspective and philosophical at you: what if vampires could be cured? Will these particular vampires want that, and should we want it for them? What will that do to someone like Elena if she actively chooses to stay this way, rather than just accept what she couldn't control?
Beauty and the Beast
(Thursdays, 9 p.m.) - Here's the thing: I like the concept; I like the people working on this show; I want to like the show in general, but I just don't. I was told episode four was where things really started to get interesting. I thought that was kind of too late to hook me, but I was willing to wait until then to give it a shot, to adjust to what it was, when it was trying to do so many things at once. It's trying; I'll give it that; but it's execution is not succeeding. The procedural element is much too simple-- relying on exposition and the young numerical age of the audience to surprise with twists and turns to cases that are hard to care about when you have this fascinating case in the form of Vincent (Jay Ryan) himself staring at you but from afar. Catherine (Kristin Kreuk) is attracted to him-- or maybe she isn't; maybe she's just using him to find out the truth about her mother's death, but she likes to point out they can't be together. Well, they can't be seen together, but if she really wanted him, she could have him in secret. People do it for far less serious reasons all the time. It just feels forced-- and already in episode four it feels like a stretch-- like they don't have enough story so they're stalling for time. I don't care about procedurals; I don't care about Catherine's mother (we never knew her anyway); I barely care about Catherine, if I'm being honest. The only interesting one here is Vincent-- what he went through, how he changed, who he is now and how it defies who he wants to be (kind of like Arrow but with less control). I think the show did itself a disservice by using Catherine's POV when he's the unique one. TV cops are a dime a dozen; a guy mutilated by the government for their own gain? Well, they're not getting into the political stuff, using it as color, rather than commentary. So everything interesting about Vincent is basically what I like about Arrow. So I'm just going to watch Arrow.
Nikita (Fridays, 9 p.m.) - I truly don't understand why more people don't watch this show. It breaks my heart every week-- whether it's Nikita (Maggie Q) just so determined to have a semi-normal life or Michael (Shane West) staying in captivity to get the ring back so he can start to give her that as best as he can or the parallels they see in other people affected by Division. On the surface, the action is pretty cool, too, but it's not what drives the story: the emotional pull between these characters and their desire to right their wrongs and do something good for themselves and the world is what is at the center. They are the most selfless people ever, and those are the people usually doomed to a life of servitude. As much as Nikita may want a way out, I don't see it ever actually happening for her. There will always be someone else to help, and she's too good a person not to help. It's that kind of beautiful tragedy that makes this show feel like poetry. Poetry with a backdrop of really kick-ass stunts.