Not to sound like a cliche, but there’s been good news and bad news for Nashville fans, eager to see if the country-music themed soap opera can avoid a sophomore slump in Season 2.

First the good news:  the quality of the music remains top notch.  Nashville has delivered tons of download-worthy songs and performances and that’s continued right through Season 2.  More good news:  Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) is as Juliette-y as ever:  vulnerable and compassionate one moment, ambitious and scheming the next, downright bitch-tastic in another. Panettiere delivers all of it with just the right mix of diva, Cinderella and Cruella DeVille.  She’s easily been the show-stealer in Season 2.

Which leads us to the bad news.  In the aftermath of Rayna (Connie Britton) and Deacon’s (Charles Esten) accident, both of them have been removed from the music performing business.  Professionally neutering two of the show’s key characters have left a void that’s been keenly noticeable this season, and I can only hope at some point the show will find a way to put these two back on stage, either together or separately.

All glammed up:  Clare Bowen

Nashville, Clare Bowen

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The dichotomy of Season 2 has led, predictably, to mixed results in Nashville’s universe of juggling story lines.  Scarlett (Clare Bowen) is focused on her budding musical career, and for fans of Scarlett (like me) that’s a good thing.  I say give Clare Bowen at least one good song a week.  Perhaps as a nod to fans who find the character annoying, Scarlett has been a little less wide-eyed countrified this season, without changing the essential nature of the character.  There’s also been more screen time for Will Lexington (Chris Carmack), one of the most fascinating characters on TV – an up and coming country singer with a macho cowboy image who is fighting against his closeted gay identity.  That Nashville has so skillfully worked this storyline without a hint of manipulation is a testament to just how good this show can be.

Sadly, it ain’t all that good.  Rayna’s budding romance with superstar Luke Wheeler (Will Chase) lacks sizzle.  Maddie’s (Lennon Stella) storyline dealing with the revelation that Deacon is her real father hasn’t had the emotional resonance it needs to connect.  Gunnar (Sam Palladio) hooking up with Zoey (Chaley Rose) has a fizzle quality to it as well.

Like a baseball player with a great swing but no eye, Nashville seems to be a show that never met a plot twist, potential hook-up or new storyline it didn’t take a swing at.  So far, the show hits enough homeruns that you can forgive it when it strikes out.  I still consider Nashville must-watch weekly television.

THERE ARE PLENTY OF shows that could rightly be considered under-appreciated or underrated, and despite critical acclaim and reasonable ratings, I feel like Parks and Recreation is one of them.

Parks & Rec combines every element a great sitcom needs to be successful:  smart, topical humor, recognizable characters, compassion and pathos…throw in the deepest comedy cast this side of The Big Bang Theory and you start to understand how this show maintains such a high level every week.

Iconic:  Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson

Parks & Recreation, Nick Offerman

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In reality, it is the depth of talent that keeps Parks & Recreation so fresh.  Amy Poehler is as funny and likeable a lead as there is on television, but the show is hardly forced to be star-centric.  The incomparable Nick Offerman has turned the hilarious Ron Swanson into a cottage industry.  Aziz Ansari, Aubrey Plaza and Chris Pratt are all funny enough to have their own show.  Parks & Recreation also has not one, but two of the funniest straight men on TV:  Adam Scott and Rashida Jones (the latter will be leaving the show soon – she will be missed).

For me, Parks and Recreation, which drew its docu-style from The Office, is the realization of that show’s dream.  The Office was funny.  Parks and Recreation is really a classic.

WOW AM I sick of hearing about how Homeland isn’t as good as it was in Season 1.  Considering Season 1 swept the emmys, I submit:  how many seasons of any show that’s ever been on television were as good as Homeland Season 1?  A half dozen?  Maybe 10 altogether?  Are we supposed to not watch Homeland because now it’s just a great, thrilling, suspenseful drama and not one of the all time greatest, thrilling suspenseful dramas?   Even The Wire had that season with the longshoremen. . .

Season 3 of Homeland is the first where Brody (Damian Lewis) could not be the center of the action, and yes, the show has struggled a little bit, having been robbed of a) the consistently brilliant performance of Damian Lewis b) the incredible tension between Brody, his wife (Morena Baccarin) and his daughter (Morgan Saylor) and c) the even more incredible tension and sexuality between Brody and Carrie (Claire Danes).  That said, Homeland has crafted a pretty intriguing plotline involving Carrie and Saul (Mandy Patinkin) and their effort to turn a top Iranian intelligence official (Shaun Toub).

Psycho Drama:  Danes and Patinkin

Homeland, Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin

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It’s true Homeland had to rely on a bit of manipulative subterfuge to get us to this point in the story, but if you can forgive that, then maybe you can appreciate the harrowing sequences of Carrie being held in a mental institution, Saul’s tense interactions with Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) and Senator Lockhart (Tracy Letts) and Quinn’s (Rupert Friend) growing disillusionment with life in the CIA and the omenous consequences that might await him if he quits.  It’s true that without Brody in the picture, the storylines tracing his family have really fizzled, but there’s still plenty of talent and plenty of good show history invested in these characters.  Give the writers a chance and I’m certain they can resurrect that side of the story into something compelling.

And, of course, there’s still Brody.  Just one episode has been dedicated to him this season, where we saw that he’s being held prisoner by drug lords in Venezuela.  The fact that we saw him at all means that eventually he’ll be back.  Does anyone really want to be on just how good Homeland will be once it ties these stories back together?  Anyone?  I didn’t think so.

QUICK TAKES

I swear maybe TBS should just get out of the sitcom business.  The latest abortion on film trying to pass itself off as funny is Ground Floor, an almost unbelievably wrongheaded workplace romance comedy about sleazy 1%’ers in the finance industry and how one of them (Skylar Astin) falls for a party girl (Briga Heelan) from the mail room.  Part wannabe Wall Street, part wannabe Pretty Woman and all kinds of uncomfortably not funny, the hamhanded set up of the barriers between these two characters and these two worlds was so tangible, I’m surprised Astin didn’t have to swim a moat to get a lunch date.  Please take this off the air.  Please.

Educational TV.  Things we learned from watching TV this week: 1) BI Robot likes AC and DC (@Midnight); 2) What position does Richie Incognito play?  Very Offensive Lineman (Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell); 3) When the world needs heroes, no one says, “Thank God, the Belgians are here.” (The Colbert Report).

In the crowded late night field, two standout shows just finished their runs.  The expanded Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell proved it could deliver nightly laughs just as well as it did on a weekly basis.  This welcome addition to the late night lineup provides a more cutting edge brand of Daily Show style humor.  @Midnight, the internet themed game show from comedy central, meanwhile, just got picked up for season 2.  In retrospect, this twitter-happy laugh fest seemingly couldn’t miss, and while it still counts on a solid guest line up to get the biggest laughs, the show was consistently funny almost every single night it was on.

Looking Ahead

The series premiere of Almost Human airs on Fox on November 17.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will air a Thor: The Dark World tie in episode on ABC on November 19.

David Blaine:  Real or Magic airs on ABC on November 19.

The season finale of The League airs on FXX on November 20.

An Adventure in Space and Time airs on BBC America on November 22.

The season premiere of Nikita airs on The CW on November 22.

Doctor Who returns with The Day of the Doctor on BBC America on November 23.

The series premiere of Atlantis airs on BBC America on November 23.

TV’s a big place and I haven’t been to all of it yet.  Got a favorite show you’d like me to comment on?  Post a comment below, contact me on twitter @RobLazlo. or shoot me an email:  [email protected]  I welcome your input!