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Arrow -- "Honor Thy Father" -- Image: AR102a_4930b -- Pictured: Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen -- Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW © 2012 The CW Network. All Rights Reserved.

There are some new TV shows that we go in expecting to love. Perhaps we're big fans of the actors or the genre. Maybe we really respect the work of the writer or producer.

Then there are shows that we never expected to embrace but wind up catching us by complete surprise. "Arrow" is like that for me.

The new action series is a superhero tale, which really isn't my thing (and I realize that admission might get me banned from Comic-Con). Featured in the title role is Stephen Amell, a Canadian chunk of muscle I'd never heard of. And it's on a network -- The CW -- that doesn't exactly count me among its target audience.

Despite it all, I came away not only impressed by the strapping, soulful Amell, but by the entire endeavor, which makes for enjoyable, high-octane viewing. At least, the pilot episode does. Let's see where it goes from here.

The CW clearly is hoping that "Arrow" turns out to be the superhero replacement for "Smallville," a show that ended a 10-season run last year. The Green Arrow -- first introduced in 1941 -- has never ranked among the high-profile members of the DC Comics canon, but maybe this show can change that.

"Arrow" is pegged to Oliver Queen (Amell), a billionaire playboy who, after a catastrophic shipwreck, was missing and presumed dead. But -- surprise -- five years after the accident, he's discovered alive on a remote Pacific island, which comes as a major shock to his mother (Susanna Thompson), sister (Willa Holland) and estranged ex-girlfriend (Katie Cassidy).

When he returns home to crime-infested Starling City, Queen clearly is a changed man. No longer a carefree party boy, he secretly creates the persona of Arrow -- a hooded vigilante and uber-archer -- to right the wrongs of his family, defeat evil and restore Starling City to its former glory.

Directed by David Nutter, the turbo-charged opener is somewhat reminiscent of how "Nikita," another CW thriller, burst onto the scene with a moody pilot that delivered a relentless adrenaline rush and smoothly swiveled between flashbacks and present day.

Along the way, "Arrow" does what a solid pilot should: Suck us in, make us anxious to see what's next and set up several intriguing possibilities. It becomes apparent, for example, that Mom knows much more about the deadly shipwreck than she has let on.

As for our lead hero, Queen's aim is true. Handling his role with cool aplomb, Amell brings just the right amount of heart and hunkability to the role.

COUNTRY STRONG: "Nashville" is one of those shows I was predisposed to like -- mainly because it features my long-running TV crush, Connie Britton ("Friday Night Lights"; "American Horror Story"), who just radiates a sexy, earthy charm. Fortunately, it doesn't disappoint.

Britton is a perfect fit for Rayna James, a country music legend who, after a two-decade ride atop the charts, is seeing her popularity wane amid a youth-obsessed market. Enter Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere), a sassy and cunning vixen who has her eyes on the throne. (Think "All About Eve" with a country twang.)

With her record sales in decline, Rayna is forced by the label she helped build to do a concert tour with Juliette -- an idea she wants no part of. Meanwhile, Juliette sets out to poach Rayna's longtime guitar player -- and ex -- for her own band. Clearly, we've got one big, catty backstage rivalry brewing.

Offstage, things aren't much easier for Rayna, who has a strained relationship with her father (the commanding Powers Boothe), a manipulative Nashville power-broker, and is at odds with her husband (Eric Close) over his sudden, unexpected decision to make a mayoral run.

Created by Callie Khouri ("Thelma & Louise") and filmed on location in Music City, "Nashville" is one of this season's best pilots -- an irresistible blend of soapy shenanigans, domestic tension, political intrigue and catchy tunes. If it can stay on track, I suspect viewers everywhere will be singing its praises.

Contact Chuck Barney at cbarney@bayareanewsgroup.com. Read his TV blog at http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/tv, and follow him at Twitter.com/chuckbarney and Facebook.com/BayAreaNewsGroup.ChuckBarney.

'Arrow'

* * * ½

When: 8 p.m., Oct. 10
Where: The CW

'Nashville'

H * * ½

When: 10 p.m., Oct. 10
Where: ABC