review: nashville

By Stefanie Lee on 11/05/2012

I gave Nashville a shot for one reason: Connie Britton. She was the heart, soul, and hair of Friday Night Lights, and she took the idealized, stereotyped role of the working mom on TV and flipped it right over. Her y’all-spouting Tami Taylor was a true role model, inasmuch as fictional characters can be, because Britton was real and honest and, most of the time, genuinely conflicted about something in a moral gray area. Her performance made for constantly compelling television on a show that was already filled to the brim (of a ten-gallon hat) with talent. When I saw that she’d be playing country music star Rayna James on a brand-new TV show, I was relieved that, at the very least, I’d get my fix of her using the second-person plural pronoun again.

Nashville – A fading Nashville superstar is forced to team up with a teen sensation or face the loss of her tour and promotion of her latest records.  Trailer       

Premiered: October 10, 2013

Airs: Wed. at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC

Starring: Connie BrittonHayden Panettiere                                                 

Dingo Dictum: B+

 

I’m four episodes in now, and Nashville is here to stay in my TV rotation, but not just because of Britton anymore. After a (forgivably) exposition-heavy pilot, the show soldiered on with only its soapiest, grittiest elements in tow: love triangles and family conflicts. Hayden Pannettierre, of Heroes fame, plays Juliette Barnes, a fierce hybrid of Carrie Underwood and Lindsay Lohan (blonde, crossover-talented, mommy issues, occasionally prone to stealing things), and she totally nails it. She’s also got surprisingly real chemistry with Deacon Claybourne, Rayna’s lead guitarist and former lover, whom Juliette is trying to poach for her own band. Former Whose Line Is It Anyway mainstay Charles Easton lends Deacon a certain unassuming magnetism, made all the more appealing by the fact that real-life Esten is, in fact, an accomplished musician.

Show business seems to run in Deacon’s family, too, as his niece, Scarlett (Clare Bowen), is also caught up in it. She’s got a struggling-musician boyfriend, Avery (played by Jonathan Jackson), and, much to his jealousy, a killer demo deal with her songwriting partner, Gunnar (played by Sam Palladio). Bowen, Australian by birth, overcooks her accent a bit, but it’s barely noticeable behind her charming earnestness. It’s only a matter of time before Scarlett ditches Avery for Gunnar, and they become the next Rayna and Deacon, but the show is written too smartly to make that path a straight one.

By the way, Rayna is also married with two kids. Her husband, Teddy Conrad (Eric Close), is running for mayor of Nashville, backed by Rayna’s father, Lamar Wyatt (Powers Boothe), who practically exhales money and entitlement. I hate to use the word “juicy,” but it’s an all-too-appropriate adjective for this show. And I mean it in the most flattering way.

Did I mention that the (original and cast-sung!) songs are catchy? They’re catchy. They’re so catchy that I literally bought them on iTunes. Smash and (especially) Glee set the new musical standard for serialized TV, but they also depend on already-popular songs, flashy spectacles, and a certain suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience. By that, I mean that some of the characters occasionally break into spontaneous song, in that Sound of Music way that some people find annoying. Nashville’s characters don’t do that. They sing when they’re performing on stage or recording in a studio or shooting a music video, and that’s it. No jazz hands. In fact, the music plays a more integral role in the plot this way, driving it forward with soulful intimacy rather than overt, stilted symbolism.

Watch it, y’all.  Δ

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