Now Streaming: The fall's best new TV shows

[Streaming movies and TV shows—on services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Instant Videos—are ephemeral: Here one day, gone the next. The purpose of the Now Streaming series is to alert you to what movies and shows are new to streaming, what you might want to watch before it disappears, and other treasures that are worth checking out.]

Nashville

★★★★★

Hulu, pilot now streaming

There’s exactly one reason why Nashville (ABC) is the best pilot of the fall season, and that reason is Connie Britton. With its intersecting plot lines of rising stars, ruthless businessmen, and political backstabbing, Nashville (above) sometimes feels like Dallas but with country music singers. The show manages to elevate itself from a simple nighttime soap by casting Britton as the lead and putting her right in the middle of all the intersecting plot threads. Her performance as fading country star Rayna Jaymes is magnetic and single-handedly turns an otherwise just good pilot into a great one.

Last Resort

★★★★

Hulu, first three episodes now streaming

Last Resort (ABC), the network’s other great drama pilot of the fall, seems like it started out as ABC’s newest attempt to recreate Lost, with it’s island setting, ensemble cast, and ongoing mystery. Instead, though, it plays more like Battlestar Galactica meets Tom Clancy novel. After questioning a suspicious order to nuke Pakistan, the crew of the USS Colorado are declared traitors and fired on by another American sub. They retreat to a remote island with a NATO listening station, where they try and figure out how to prove their innocence and return home. The show’s high-concept premise is grounded by some great performances (especially Andre Braugher as the sub’s captain) and real stakes when the nukes start flying.

Revolution

Revolution

★★★

Hulu, first four episodes now streaming

Revolution (NBC) has a great hook: All the lights go out on Earth and never turn back on. What does society look like without electricity? How does life go on? Unfortunately, instead of exploring those questions, the show’s pilot shows off some of cocreator JJ Abrams's worst qualities, getting bogged down in its own mythology and showing off characters whose past traumas make them more whiny than compelling. The show still has a lot of potential, though: Director Jon Favreau blocks some exciting action sequences in the pilot; and cocreator Eric Kripke has already proven—with the CW’s Supernatural—that he can make a fun universe out of mopey protagonists.

The Mindy Project

★★★

Hulu, first three episodes now streaming

The new sitcom from The Office’s Mindy Kaling seems to want to do everything right out of the gate. In the pilot for The Mindy Project (Fox), Kaling’s character is an ob-gyn who crashes the wedding of her ex-boyfriend (played by guest star Bill Hadar), gets drunk and falls into a pool, gets arrested by the cops, gets out of jail, sleeps with one of her coworkers and has an adversarial but still flirty relationship with another, goes on another date with other special guest star Ed Helms before delivering a baby for a poor Muslim woman—all while explaining her characters' rom-com obsessed backstory. If that all sounds like a lot to fit into an hour, then you should know that The Mindy Project is a half-hour show. Still, sitcom pilots are notoriously difficult, even for great shows, and trying to do too much is one of the better problems a show can have. Mindy Kaling’s pedigree means this show could yet be one of the best of the fall, but it’s still finding its legs a bit.

Vegas

Vegas

★★★½

CBS.com, first three episodes now streaming

Vegas (CBS) is without a doubt the most stylish new show of the fall. The 1960's Vegas setting is fully realized and gorgeous. Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis are great as, respectively, a reluctant but brilliant cowboy sheriff and his new nemesis who has arrived in town to run the casinos for the mob. The problem is that the show takes all these elements and stuffs them into a run-of-the-mill murder-of-the-week crime show. With the truly compelling stuff limited to five minutes an episode, it seems like a lot of wasted potential. Still, CBS has a great track record for slowly expanding stylish-if-rote procedurals into must-watch television, recently with The Good Wife and Person of Interest. If it manages to escape the feeling that it’s CSI: 1960’s this could be the network’s newest highlight.

Ben & Kate

★★★½

Hulu, first three episodes now streaming

Despite having only four new shows on the fall schedule, Fox manages to somehow have both of the best new sitcoms. The premise of Ben and Kate (Fox) is simple, Kate Fox grew up too quickly, while her brother Ben never grew up at all. After the show makes its uptight-sister/wacky-brother dynamic clear in the first 30 seconds, it manages to find time to do something few other fall sitcoms have managed: Be funny. I doubt Ben and Kate will ever go down as one of history’s great sitcoms, and its terrible original title “Ben Fox Is My Manny” seems to have doomed it to a poor critical reception, but at least so far it’s the fall’s funniest new show.

What’s new

  • Bobby’s World (Fox) Seasons 1–7:Netflix
  • CSI Miami (CBS) Seasons 1–10: Netflix
  • 30 Rock (NBC) Season 6: Netflix

Expiring soon

  • Hopeless Pictures (IFC) Season 1: Netflix (10/18)
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