REVOLUTION -- "No Quarter" Episode 103 -- Pictured: (l-r) Tracy Spiridakos as Charlie Matheson, Billy Burke as Miles Matheson, Daniella Alonso as
REVOLUTION -- "No Quarter" Episode 103 -- Pictured: (l-r) Tracy Spiridakos as Charlie Matheson, Billy Burke as Miles Matheson, Daniella Alonso as Nora, Paras Patel as Albert. (Brownie Harris/NBC)

It's a good thing I'm not a betting man.

If you had asked me in September to lay odds on the survival of broadcast television's new shows, I would have declared ABC's turbocharged submarine drama "Last Resort" to be the season's blockbuster hit. On the other hand, I'd have told you that NBC's lights-out saga, "Revolution," was destined for a Nielsen blackout.

Uh, never mind.

As it turns out, "Last Resort" has already been canceled (and, yes, I'm ticked off at ABC). Meanwhile, "Revolution" has become a valuable weapon for a surprisingly resurgent NBC, which may live to regret its decision to bench the show until late March.

But that's what kind of weird, unpredictable, largely lackluster season it has been. As TV rolls toward the midseason point, here are a few random observations about what we've witnessed so far:

  • There are two reasons I thought "Revolution" wouldn't survive: Its pilot episode was less than electrifying, and doomsday dramas have dropped like flies in recent years.

    So why did it beat the odds?

    First, it has a simple, straightforward premise, especially compared to most of the dense "Lost" clones in recent years. It also features a good blend of older and younger characters, giving it a family-friendly quality.

    Perhaps most significantly, "Revolution" maintains a potent blend of suspense, humor and swashbuckling action. In other words, it's just good, ol'-fashioned lightweight entertainment.

  • Going into a new season, we TV critics have only the pilots on which to base our calls, but much can change over subsequent episodes. Case in point: I had "The Mindy Project" among my fall Top 5 and hailed it as my favorite new sitcom. Meanwhile, I mostly dismissed "Ben & Kate."

    But now I demand a recount. The latter show, pegged to the awkward relationship between a free-spirited brother (Nat Faxon) and his uptight sister (Dakota Johnson), has really grown on me. The leads are charming, the quirky supporting cast appealing and the writing fresh and witty. Give this underappreciated sitcom a try.

  • Another new show that I'm liking more than expected is "Elementary," the Sherlock Holmes reboot on CBS.

    I came to this series with a sour attitude, refusing to believe it could live up to the PBS series "Sherlock." And while I still prefer the latter, I've come to embrace "Elementary," thanks to the performance of Jonny Lee Miller.

    He brings some fidgety, neurotic wrinkles to the iconic sleuth and invests Holmes with a touch of appealing vulnerability. It's just a pleasure to watch him work.

  • I've always been a fan of "Parenthood," but the NBC family drama has really raised the bar in its fourth season. Monica Potter and Peter Krause have been extraordinary in the show's breast cancer story line, which has us repeatedly reaching for the tissues.

    "Parenthood" also continues to deftly mix moments of humor in with the poignancy. Ray Romano, as a caustic photographer with a thing for Sarah (Lauren Graham), has made for a fun addition.

    Unfortunately, NBC is giving us only a half season of this marvelous show. "Parenthood" will depart at the end of January to make way for the return of "Smash."

  • I also remain a faithful devotee of "Hawaii Five-0," despite an alarming uptick in brutality that includes grisly scenes of severed heads and limbs and wince-inducing torture.

    Perhaps "Five-0" producers have lapsed into a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses mode. The show, after all, airs on CBS, the home of visually explicit crime series like "CSI" and "Criminal Minds."

    But they need to keep in mind that "Five-0" isn't that kind of show and shouldn't be. Viewers flock to it for the gorgeous scenery, the high-octane action, buddy humor and tropical escapism -- not blood and guts.

  • Further proof that some shows should have limited runs: ABC's "Revenge."

    Even though I enjoyed "Revenge" as a sudsy guilty pleasure in its rookie season, I kept wondering how the series was going to sustain its momentum and intrigue in Season 2. The answer? It hasn't.

    "Revenge" is the new "Prison Break" -- a show that has quickly devolved into a tangled, convoluted mess. And now it's in danger of slipping completely off my DVR.

  • In contrast, "New Girl" continues to be a joy to watch in Season 2, but it's time to hand out props to someone other than Zooey Deschanel and Max Greenfield.

    My new favorite character among the guys is grumpy, high-strung Nick, wonderfully played by Jake Johnson. He brings just the right vibe to the romantic tension between Nick and Jess and really knows how to deliver a one-liner. He doesn't even have to talk to be funny. Just a simple facial expression or weird gesture from Nick is enough to get me howling.

  • The season's best newcomer? Easy choice: Stephen Amell of "Arrow."

    As a bow-toting vigilante, Amell brings a brooding charisma, as well as some great abs, to the show. His presence has helped "Arrow" become The CW's biggest hit since "The Vampire Diaries."

    Now the series needs to do a better job of developing its bland supporting characters.

  • Let the appearance of Britney Spears on "The X Factor" be a warning to other reality talent shows: Big, highly paid stars don't always make for great TV.

    As a judge, Spears has been zombielike so far, dispensing mostly bland, often pointless critiques. In fact, the feisty and outspoken Demi Lovato, who makes a lot less money, is much more fun to watch.

    We'll give Spears her due, though. At least she's a better judge than Khloe Kardashian is a host.

  • Things could change over the second half of the season, but this fall, cable is once again upstaging broadcast TV in terms of buzz and creative juice.

    On Showtime, "Homeland" is following up its big, Emmy-winning first season with another riveting saga, and "Dexter" has bounced back from a disappointing season. On FX, the motorcycle drama "Sons of Anarchy" is absolutely on fire, and on AMC, Season 3 of "The Walking Dead" ranks as the show's best yet.

    Memo to the major networks: It's time to up your game.

    Contact Chuck Barney at cbarney@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/chuckbarney, and Facebook at www.facebook.com/BayAreaNewsGroup.ChuckBarney.