Two country music stars at opposite ends of the their careers are thrown together.
There are three stars in this show – Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights), Hayden Panettiere (Heroes) and the music. I adore Connie Britton, and she is the heart and soul of the show, the most believable and the most likeable of the characters. Without the humour and the passion she brings to the role, Rayna could easily be something of a spoilt rich girl, whining about the fact that her star is waning and unable to accept that times have moved on. But Britton plays Rayna as a woman who’s just trying to do the best she can for her dreams, her family and her friends and she does so with humour, warmth and passion.
Hayden Pannetier is the other side of the coin though. Her character is mostly a manipulative, unpleasant little bitch. Where Rayna is talent and hard work, Juliette is manufactured and demanding. She uses flirts and sleeps with who she needs to get where she wants. There are only the briefest flashes that there’s something more to her (a difficult mother and a genuine emotional connection to certain songs), but the character herself brushes those aside. It’s not Panettiere’s performance, she’s actually surprisingly good in the role, but the character is an unlikeable cow, and without a realistic and strong character to balance Britton’s, the show won’t work.
The other thing that just didn’t work for me unfortunately the music. I have pretty eclectic taste but I struggle with country music, it seems to only have two extremes, whiney, or overwhelming ‘yeeha’ enthusiasm. The songs in this episode did little to alleviate me of this opinion, and rather than the musical numbers being high points for the energy of the show, they left me cold. The fact that T-Bone Burnett is responsible for the music suggests that it’s probably pretty good, just not my thing.
Surrounding those three stars are a cluster of supporting characters and plots which didn’t really jump off the screen. I really struggled to distinguish between Rayna’s husband, guitarist and producer for most of the episode, although on a second viewing it was easier and they were far more interesting, the chemistry between Rayna and the guitarist/former boyfriend was particularly intriguing. There’s a subplot involving politics that I was frankly bored with before it started not least because Rayna’s father who engineered that plot is a completely over-the-top cliché of a wealthy Southern businessman, using money and threats to control everyone around him. Similarly the story about a love triangle of young singer/song writers practically wrote itself.
I’m a bit on the fence about this show. I’m not a fan of country music, but there is something interesting there about how the music business is changing and how that effects the lives of the people within it. But the second half of the pilot was overwhelmed with the political storyline and the family feud elements and that was a lot less original. The characters that feel real were interesting, but that only accounts for about half the cast; the others were bordering on pantomime villains at time.
I will watch this show for a few more episodes, largely on the strength of Connie Britton’s performance. There were some flashes in the pilot of a nice sense of humour behind the writing, just little asides and remarks that acknowledge the ridiculousness of some of the situations and characters. A bit more of that, a bit less of the hammy characters, and this might turn into something fun. Even if it is about country music.
Nashville is “coming early 2013” to the UK
Huffington Post: Perhaps “Nashville’s” most surprising accomplishment is that it sort of invents its own genre: It’s a high-class entertainment that takes its locale and its characters seriously and treats the audience to some enjoyable music along the way
CliqueClack: ABC’S ‘Nashville’ is a solid show with a great lead performance by Connie Britton. Whether you are a fan of country music or not, if you like soaps that aren’t too campy, you should give this a try come Fall.