Nashville fits into a very specific sub-genre, it’s a soap opera, but with the budget, time slot, and marketing of a star of network prime time. It’s full of big characters, big stories, and big traumas that keep you tuning in week after week. To top it all off it even has music – it’s not a musical, so it avoids the unsettling problem of characters spontaneously bursting into song, but being about the music industry it presents more than enough opportunities for a ditty.
My biggest hesitation about the show going in was probably the music in fact. I would never describe myself as a country music fan, and although my tastes are pretty eclectic, I always found traditional country music a rather tedious blend of whining about your man and love stories about trucks and boots. Being pretty ignorant (and not interested enough to research), I’ve no idea whether the music in Nashville is representative of the industry in general, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much the music grew on me. There was plenty of spunk to it and a nice range from perky pop princess flavour to more mournful ballads with some beautiful lyrics.
Another surprise for me was Hayden Panettiere. Connie Britton was my primary reason for watching the show, so I wasn’t surprised when she was brilliant (although who knew she could sing like that!). but Panettiere took an unsympathetic character and delivered on every single thing the writers threw at her. And boy did they throw stuff at her – by my recollection there were four boyfriends, a marriage, a divorce, a blackmail, a family death, and multiple scandals all handled in a parade of improbably short skirts and high heals. The character should have been a massive pain in the posterior, but somehow she wasn’t.
The plot lines for the other characters came equally thick and fast; reading back over the episode list for the season there are more stories than most series see over half a dozen seasons. I think Nashville probably had more plots per episode than Mad Men has had over its entire run. While that means that on reflection the series seems insane, it also makes every episode barrel along at a phenomenal rate. Surprisingly all those stories are actually fully rounded, with long lasting impacts and appropriate character developments. Nothing is forgotten, nothing is ignored, it’s all incorporated into a colourful and vibrant whole. And accompanied by a song.
I thoroughly enjoyed Nashville’s debut season. Every episode was crammed with humour, drama and characters. The fact that it’s set in a city and industry rarely seen on television gave it an originality that was refreshing and engrossing, and the similarly relatively unknown cast are fresh and charismatic. After every episode I had to struggle not to walk around saying “y’all”, I was so carried along with it. I worry how many plots they can possible have left given how many they burned through in the first season, but I’m sure they’ll come up with something. Now y’all have a nice day.