2012-13 Season – the best and the worst

2012_2013As the new season has officially started, it’s time for my wrap up of the 2012-2013 season! From the list below it really looks like I’ve watched 46 television series this year, which frankly even I find amazing, given that last year I was astonished that I’d gone from 28 to 39 series. Admittedly 10 of those series are still in progress and a couple might not get finished, but even without those, it’s still probably somewhere in the order of 700 episodes.

The Americans: S1
Blue Bloods: S3
The Big Bang Theory: S6
Bones: S8
Borgen: S2
Broadchurch: S1
The Cafe: S2 (in progress)
Castle: S5
Chicago Fire: S1
Criminal Minds: S8
CSI: S13
CSI: NY: S10 (in progress)
Defiance: S1
Doctor Who: S7
Downton Abbey: S3
The Fall: S1
The Following: S1
Forbrydelsen (The Killing): S3
Fringe: S5
Game of Thrones: S3
The Good Wife: S4
Grey’s Anatomy: S9
Hannibal: S1
Homeland: S2
House of Cards: S1
House of Lies: S2 (in progress)
Hunted: S1
Last Tango in Halifax: S1
Luther: S3
Mad Men: S6
Merlin: S5
Nashville: S1
NCIS: LA: S4 (in progress)
The Newsroom: S2 (in progress)
Once Upon a Time: S2 (in progress)
Orphan Black: S1 (in progress)
Les Revenenants (The Returned): S1
Scandal: S2 (Review to come)
Smash: S2 (in progress)
Supernatural: S8 (in progress)
The Thick of It: S4
Utopia: S1
Vegas: S1
The Walking Dead: S3
Warehouse 13: S4 (in progress)
Young Doctor’s Notebook: S1

There are also a few miniseries I watched (mostly British) – Dancing on the Edge, In the Flesh, What Remains (to be reviewed), The Secret of Crickley Hall and Southcliffe.

Best Shows
The Walking Dead title screenThe Walking Dead – I think this may be the show I obsessed most about this year (although see Scandal later on). I pounced on every episode as soon as I could, read analysis, studied trailers, frankly it’s a bit embarrassing. But what makes me really happy is that the show warrants its place in the best list, not just the favourite. The quality of this show is outstanding, from the breathtaking direction to the elegant writing and heartbreaking acting. There were a few miss-steps with the plot, but overall, this show is right up there with the likes of Battlestar Galactica for raising genre to a new level.

GoodWifeThe Good Wife – It’s hard to think of new superlatives to describe The Good Wife, from the very first episode of season 1 this show has been consistently good, interesting and entertaining. Sadly that consistency also applies to the ongoing poor usage of Kalinda, but if that’s the only problem with the show, then it’s still leaps and bounds above most of its companions on the schedules.

House of CardsHouse of Cards – It’s notable that of the three best shows I’ve selected one is on Cable, one is on Network and the final one is on neither! Thanks to Netflix it’s now possible to get exceptional television series completely independent of the television channels. House of Cards was smart, challenging and exceptionally well made and throws a real challenge at the traditional broadcasters.

Honourable mentions – I’m only 2 episodes in, but Orphan Black is rather amazing and reminiscent of the also stunning Utopia. Broadchurch was outstanding, blending believable responses to horrific events with a British humour and A Young Doctor’s Notebook was surprisingly weird and engaging.

Favourite Shows
scandalScandal – I haven’t written my review of this yet, because it would mean admitting that rather than waiting for the weekly episodes on the television, I was so addicted to the show, I saught out an alternate source and watched the whole season pretty much back to back over the space of a weekend. The story is utterly ridiculous, but I found it incredibly addictive. Shonda Rhimes has recreated the Grey’s Anatomy magic, it doesn’t matter how bad it is, I can’t let it go.

americansThe Americans – It’s almost impossible to talk about this show without comparing it to Homeland, which appeared on my best shows list last year, but is significantly absent this year. The Americans gets right everything that Homeland got wrong in season 2, it never took itself too seriously, never sacrificed consistent character development for cheap cliffhangers and remembered that spies (even in the 80s) are cool!

BorgenBorgen – Last year Borgen was in the ‘Best shows’ category, this year I move it to ‘Favourite’ because although I still adore it, I just didn’t think it was as good. I had a lot of trouble with the storylines and characters this season, many set off down unfortunate paths which ultimately led to dead ends and frustrations. But despite that, it’s still hugely entertaining, with sparkling dialogue, beautiful direction and an unfailing ability to draw me in.

Honourable Mentions – hmm, the fact I’m struggling to find ones of note is a bit of an indicator that this years shows have really gone to the extremes of “great” and “meh”. Nashville was reliable ridiculous fun (far far more successful than the increasingly awful Smash) and Last Tango in Halifax was endearingly easy watching. Oh, and there have been great moments in the first few episodes of The Newsroom, but those moments of brilliance are unfortunately surrounded with some real mediocrity (and that’s being charitable).

bBroadchurchI think there should be some kind of awareness that there is great acting going on in the oddest of places. Awards are generally given for great acting in great shows. That really is a bit chicken and egg, is the acting great because of the writing, or is the writing great because of the acting? For shows like The Walking Dead, House of Cards, Broadchurch, The Americans and The Good Wife, the quality just feeds back and forth elevating both to wonderful heights.

The Thick of ItThe more impressive achievement I think is great acting taking place in mediocre or even awful shows. The cast of Homeland did an admirable job with truly terrible writing as did some of the cast of Hannibal. The Thick of It had serious structural problems from a watch-ability point of view, but it did mean everything built up to the stunning inquiry which offered each of the actors an opportunity to give a masterclass in characters. Peter Capaldi was of course the star (and the only problem I have with him being Doctor Who is that he’ll have less time to do work like this), but everyone in the cast was incredible in that episode.

lutherThen you’ve got the type of performances that complete transcend and transform the shows they are in. Performances from Idris Elba (Luther) and Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) seem like they’re in entirely different leagues to everyone around them, bouncing off the screen with originality and charisma and really are the only reason I watch the shows. I came to Nashville because I love Connie Britton, but was surprised that I stayed with it in equal parts for was wonderful performance from Hayden Panettier. Between the two of them they made the ridiculous soap opera watchable.

Grey's Anatomy CastWhen it comes to relying on her actors to sell ridiculous storylines however, Shonda Rhimes is queen, I forgive Grey’s Anatomy its many sins because of actors like Chandra Wilson, Ellen Pompeo and Sandra Oh. I forgive Scandal for being demented because of actors like Kerry Washington who portrays Olivia Pope with such hardness and such softness, Jeff Perry who makes Cyrus the kind of manipulative bastard you want to share popcorn with and Guillermo Diaz who makes you want to give Huck a cuddle even if he is a terrifying psychopath.

Mad MenMad Men – If not for the fact that the next season will be the last, Mad Men season 6 would have been the nail in the coffin for me. I’ve just got no interest in watching a show increasingly dedicated to the unpleasant and repetitive character that is Don Draper. He goes round and round in destructive circles, holding back the other characters and the show itself from really developing.

Once Upon a TimeOnce Upon a Time – I’m struggling to find the enthusiasm to watch the whole season of this I have backed up on my Sky+ box. I think there are just too many characters (particularly given almost every character has a fairy tale alter-ego), too many worlds and too many storylines. I don’t care enough to watch every week, and without that regular viewing I lose track and therefore care even less.

fringeFringe – I’m sorry, but the final season of Fringe just wasn’t as good as the previous seasons. Jumping to the future threw everything off for me, it wasn’t as much fun, I wasn’t as engaged and it felt less original. It did however at least offer a solid ending to the show, so I am still grateful for that.

Things I Didn’t Watch
SonsOfAnarchyIn many ways the 2012-13 season was notable for the things I didn’t watch. Several shows that I’ve previously loved, I just couldn’t bring myself to watch. Glee and NCIS both got dropped because I was fed up with the inconsistent writing. I tried out Hawaii Five-0 to fit the NCIS spaced gap, but though I love the dynamic between the two leads, it wasn’t enough to keep my attention through the mind numbing plots. I also dropped Veep because I just didn’t find it funny enough to overcome the frustrations with stupid characters.

My reasons for stopping watching Girls are rather more profound. Like Veep, I didn’t think it was funny and I found the characters frustrating, but I had an extra level of repulsion to the series because it seemed to be claiming some greater reality than something like Veep. Lena Dunham, either through her own claims or those of the media appears to think this is what young women in New York are really like. Given that I think the characters are pretty hateful people, if that’s truly what this section of humanity is like, then I want nothing to do with them, even through the abstract medium of television.

This year’s high profile casualty is actually more about the fact that the writing is too good. Sons of Anarchy is a superb television show, but by making me care so much about the characters, the relentless misery heaped upon them has just become a bit much. As their situations become increasingly hopeless I found myself dreading each episode until eventually my anxiety overcame the quality and I remembered that I didn’t have to watch if I didn’t want to. It’s the same reason that I’m unlikely to watch Breaking Bad beyond the first season, that was enough for me to understand how good it was, and enough to for me to know I just didn’t want to watch something that hard.

To end this section on a positive note however, even though I didn’t get along with this season of American Horror Story (I just didn’t feel any connection to any of the characters) the clever thing about the way the series is structured means that I can try it again next year when it moves on again to a new set of characters and stories.

Local Talent
utopiaEvery year I pledge to watch more British television, and this year I actually managed it! A lot of it suffers from, what Sky’s director of entertainment eloquently described as “po-faced stick up your backside morose drama”. When done well that sort of thing is hard but fascinating to watch, but when done badly it’s just dull. Southcliffe fell into the latter category unfortunately, The Fall was doing well until it failed to reach a conclusion that just left a bad taste in the mouth. On the plus side Utopia was quirky, brutal, intriguing and beautiful to watch, and Broadchurch was utterly engrossing and entertaining from start to finish. It’s a good job David Tennant was so good in that though, because The Politician’s Husband was horrific and I know at least one person who’s Tennant crush has been permanently damaged by the dialogue he was forced.

Downton AbbeyA lot of dross was also put out claiming to be ‘pure entertainment’ with Mr Selfridge and The Paradise both trying to capture the ongoing magic of Downton Abbey and failing catastrophically. Hunted was entertaining, but nowhere near interesting enough to make me want to watch a second season. Sky’s offerings of The Cafe and Young Doctor’s Notebook are far from what I’d expect from the juggernaut, both understated and unusual.


Emmy Awards 2012-13

Emmy AwardAh the Emmys. Every year the nominations come out and television fans and critics alike look at the list and go “you what now?”. It’s full of the same old stuff, some of it deserving, but a lot of it just old, tired and not as great as people remember it was. The nominators seem to have massive blind spots for certain shows, often it’s a straightforward “genre shows aren’t good” (The Walking Dead), or “police procedurals may be popular but we shouldn’t reward that” (Southland), or “motorcycle gangs are bad” (Sons of Anarchy) or even just a blanket “there’s nothing good on network, quality is only on cable” (The Good Wife). But this year for some reason the Emmys have also taken against The Americans and when you start wondering if that’s because they still don’t like Russians, you have to wonder what the hell is going on over there.

So here are my thoughts on who I would give awards to and who I think will win the Emmys. I’ve only really covered the major drama categories. I don’t watch enough comedy, reality or factual to comment on those, I don’t have enough technical knowledge to comment on sound design or camera work and I can’t be bothered to look at the directing and writing categories because those frankly seem like they’re just used as an extension of the outstanding drama/comedy/whatever award and not looking at whether the direction or writing is actually creative or innovative.

Breaking Bad – I’ve only watched the first season which was brilliant, and I can’t imagine the final season is anything else, although stretching it out for nearly 2 years does feel a little like an awards show grab.
Downton Abbey – Ah, the Americans’ love of Downton Abbey. It’s a fun series, with a very specific genre. Does it deserve to be here? Hell no.
Game of Thrones – Another very specific type of show that just does not belong on this list.
Homeland (2012 winner) – I think the second season is probably best described as ‘troubled’. Season 1 was very good, I think season 3 could be very good, but season 2 was not.
House of Cards – It’s already a huge deal that a Netflix original programme is on this list at all. The fact that it’s also absolutely superb should terrify the other channels.
Mad Men – Far from the best season of the show. I’ve lost interest completely.

The Walking DeadWith the exception of Breaking Bad and House of Cards I think this is a really very poor selection from the vast number of outstanding shows that are out there. The Walking Dead is far more deserving than Game of Thrones (if we’re going to allow one spot for genre). The Americans is better than Homeland, Nashville is a better cheesy soap than Downton Abbey (not that this category is necessarily the place for a cheesy soap) and The Good Wife (while not such a tidy genre comparison) is so far beyond Mad Men it’s not funny. I would also not be appalled to see Scandal, or Sons of Anarchy (even though I haven’t seen it) on the list, and I know a lot of people would grumble at the absence of Southland and Justified.

My outstanding drama – The Walking Dead
My Emmy Choice – from that list, I think House of Cards (Breaking Bad can have it next year)
What will win – I recon House of Cards might just do it

Connie Britton, Nashville – Excellent choice, she’s wonderful. And lovely.
Claire Danes, Homeland (2012 winner) – manages to ride the roller coaster the writers put her character on, always knocking it out of the park
Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey – she’s doing the best with some pretty miserable writing, but no way she deserves to be on this list (not least because it’s an ensemble, she is not the star)
Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel – Haven’t seen it yet so I don’t know, but I’ve heard good things.
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men – She’s a great actress, but I don’t think she’s a lead in Mad Men, she just didn’t get enough material.
Kerry Washington, Scandal – Another excellent choice, she’s incredible on the show.
Robin Wright, House of Cards – A difficult character, but played very well to make her both unsettling and sympathetic.

scandalThere are some amazing roles out there for women at the moment, and some amazing actresses filling them. The presence of Connie Britton brings into notice the absence of her co-star Hayden Pannetier. She submitted in the supporting actress instead, I guess for fear of splitting votes, but then didn’t get nominated). I would say she was as much a lead as Britton and did just as good a job and actually with a greater range of material. Keri Russell of The Americans is overlooked, Ellen Pompeo continues to quietly do good work on Grey’s Anatomy, Anna Torv for Fringe didn’t even bother submitting herself apparently, Katey Sagal and Maggie Siff of Sons of Anarchy might as well not have bothered because the Emmy’s fails to acknowledge their shows existence. I’m also only a couple of episodes in but Tatiana Maslany is incredible in Orphan Black and pretty much cleared up at any award show voted for by critics. But that all pails into insignificance with the absence of Julianna Margulies for The Good Wife which is just beyond belief.

My Outstanding Actress – Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife (although I might change that to Tatiana Maslany when I finish Orphan Black)
My Emmy Choice – I think Kerry Washington, she makes the show work, which is a true mark of a leading role.
Who will win – Robin Wright, and it would be well deserved.

Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey – He did have some amazing moments this season, but they were only moments. I think he belongs in the supporting actor category.
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad – I’m sure he’s amazing
Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom – Interesting. The writing for the character was all over the place, but he did convincingly sell it all.
Jon Hamm, Mad Men – I hate the character and think the continual yo-yoing is beyond a joke, but even when I try to ignore that and just look at Hamm’s performance, I find it a bit… flat.
Damian Lewis, Homeland (2012 winner) – As with his co-star, ropey writing salvaged by superb performances.
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards – It’s Kevin Spacey, of course he’s amazing.

House of CardsTo my mind, Matthew Rhys in The Americans gave just as good a performance as Damian Lewis and the show around him was immeasurably better material. The fact that Andrew Lincoln’s breathtaking work on The Walking Dead was ignored isn’t surprising but is endlessly frustrating. I think the show is rubbish, but Hugh Dancy gives an amazing performance in Hannibal. I wouldn’t have been displeased to see Matt Smith for Doctor Who, or even Kevin Bacon for The Following on that list either. The surprise absence is Michael C. Hall for Dexter who must have really pissed someone off to not get his sixth consecutive nomination.

My Outstanding Actor and Emmy Choice – Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Who will win – Bryan Cranston.

Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad – probably excellent
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey (2012 winner) – I was initially frustrated at this nomination, but then I remembered the scenes after Sybil’s death and actually, I think she deserves this nomination far more than her win last year.
Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones – She’s one of the best things in the disappointing series, but I’m just not sure there was that much complexity to her character.
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife – yay!
Morena Baccarin, Homeland – Also yay!
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men – I love her, but I’m not sure her character got enough to do to warrant this nomination. I’d almost rather see January Jones in this space. (Oh, but two actresses from Firefly in the list, how cool is that?!)

NashvilleGiven I think Hayden Pannetier could have been nominated for lead, the fact she didn’t make the cut here is surprising and sad. I’d happily see Chandra Wilson or Sandra Oh for Grey’s Anatomy on the list. Kate Mara gives just as good as she gets from Kevin Spacey on House of Cards (and could be argued is more the lead than Robin Wright is).

My Outstanding Supporting Actress – Hayden Pannetier for Nashville, and I’m as surprised as anyone by that.
My Emmy Choice – Christine Baranski (Maggie Smith can just consider she won a year early and it averages out).
Who Will Win – Maggie Smith

Bobby Cannavale, Boardwalk Empire – Don’t watch, dunno.
Jonathan Banks, Breaking Bad – Dunno, haven’t seen any episodes with him in.
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad (2012 winner) – I’m sure he’s great.
Jim Carter, Downton Abbey – Sigh. No. Just no.
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones – The best thing in the show and almost the only reason I keep watching. Absolutely wonderful.
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland – A worthy nominee.

Game of ThronesI’m pretty unexcited by this list, but then can’t really comment on three out of the six. John Nobel for Fringe is unsurprisingly overlooked. Josh Charles is always wonderful in The Good Wife, Sam Waterstone is powerful and hilarious as Charlie in The Newsroom, Guillermo Diaz and Jeff Perry were both superb on Scandal, and for all Smash’s woes I rather adore Jack Davenport.

My Outstanding Supporting Actor and Emmy Choice – Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones. Every scene he’s not in is just counting the minutes until he returns.
Who Will Win – I recon Peter Dinklage might win again, but the Breaking Bad people could snatch it.

Margo Martindale, The Americans – oh apparently the nominators *are* watching The Americans, or is it just that they loved Margo Martindale in Justified so much they keep nominating her. She’s good, but not spectacular.
Diana Rigg, Game of Thrones – I think this is more about the name than the performance, which while good, I’m not sure was one of the best of teh year out of the thousands available.
Carrie Preston, The Good Wife – Yay Elsbeth! I adore her, she’s so quirky and offbeat, but somehow incredibly real.
Linda Cardellini, Mad Men – I had to look up who this was. Unenthused.
Jane Fonda, The Newsroom – I just remember her shouting a lot, not really anything phenomenal
Joan Cusack, Shameless – No idea.

goodwifeThis list could easily be made up with just The Good Wife – Maura Tierney, Martha Plimpton, Mamie Gummer, Stockard Channing, Amanda Peet… all wonderful. Shirley McLain was hilarious in Downton Abbey. I’m sure Grey’s Anatomy had some good guests too, but the one I remember most was Sarah Chalke.

My choice and the Emmy’s choice, was Carrie Preston for The Good Wife (awarded at the Creative Arts Emmys last week)

Nathan Lane, The Good Wife – it’s always odd to see Nathan Lane doing something low key and he was heartbreaking as a drab little accountant in a suit inspired by Steve Jobs’ biography
Michael J. Fox, The Good Wife – gloriously manipulative, skirts the edges of comedy villain beautifully
Rupert Friend, Homeland – I had to look him up, but as soon as the photo loaded I recognised him as the creepy and mysterious Quinn, an excellent addition to the amazing Homeland cast, but he was in 9 out of 12 episodes… doesn’t sound like a ‘guest’ role.
Robert Morse, Mad Men – Bert Cooper (I had to look him up and check) just doesn’t really do that much, more a reliable piece of furniture than anything outstanding imho.
Harry Hamlin, Mad Men – I have no memory of him in the series. Not a great indicator.
Dan Bucatinsky, Scandal – I was surprised to see this name here, he was a little umm… melodramatic I thought, but I don’t begrudge him this space on the list.

Another list that could just be made up of guests on The Good Wife – Matthew Perry, Gary Cole, Dallas Roberts, T.R. Knight – all my favourite actors show up here sooner or later. Guest stars are always the hardest to remember though and I’m struggling for other shows.

My choice – I can’t bring myself to pick between Nathan Lane and Michael J. Fox.
Emmy’s choice – Dan Bucatinsky, which really surprises me.

behindthecandelabraAmerican Horror Story: Asylum – I just didn’t get on with the series this year. I found it much harder to engage with the characters and stories
Behind the Candelabra – not being in the idiotic US, I was able to see this in its true home on the big screen and it will probably feature as one of my top films of the year. Telling a fascintating story about complex characters in a hugely enjoyable way – a joy to watch.
Top of the Lake – I made it through 2 and a half episodes before calling it quits due to extreme boredom and disbelief at every single one of the characters.
The Bible, Phil Spector, Political Animals – haven’t seen ’em

My outstanding miniseries/movie – Behind the Candelabra and I think the Emmy voters will agree. I think Michael Douglas will also win the lead actor award, although Matt Damon is equally worthy.

Nashville: Season 1

NashvilleNashville 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.

Nashville: Pilot Review

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

Other Reviews
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.

The Upfronts 2012 – ABC

The halfway mark of the Upfronts sees ABC announcing its new line up. Housewives swap for Mistresses, Shonda Rhimes continues to rule and I think a submarine has found itself on the wrong network.

What’s out
Just like House for Fox, ABC retired one of the shows that’s defined its character for a long time – Desperate Housewives. I gave up on the series after only a couple of seasons and from what I’ve heard the quality continued to gradually die away, so no one was that devastated when it drew to a close. Sadly for ABC they don’t really have much going on to replace it, GCB seemed to be trying to find the same magic and I didn’t hate the pilot as much as I wanted to, but the ratings just didn’t work out for it.

Another freshman show that failed to take off was Pan Am (pun intended) – “all a bit Barbie and Ken, pretty and plastic, all having their little melodramas with perfect hair.” Although at least it was more watchable than the utterly dire Charlie’s Angels. The River was a horror/mystery thing that I haven’t actually watched the pilot of yet and saw almost no critical comment on. Even that though is better than Missing which I’d never even heard of until I saw it on the cancelled list. ABC did manage to win the prize for most offensively awful comedy with Work It which was not so much cancelled as obliterated to the atomic level.

What’s Back
While ABC might be losing the housewives they’ve still got plenty of cheesy emotional melodrama for their schedules, with Grey’s Anatomy (which I can’t help loving), Private Practice (which I avoided getting hooked on), Revenge (which I didn’t like at all) and Once Upon a Time (which I liked the pilot of but haven’t got round to watching further). Easy going procedurals Body of Proof and Castle are also renewed alongside the new Shonda Rhimes series Scandal (which has a pretty good pilot, although I haven’t reviewed it here yet).

Freshman comedies Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23, Suburgatory and Last Man Standing are all renewed alongside The Middle, Modern Family and Happy Endings. Cougar Town meanwhile managed to be both cancelled and renewed – it will air on cable channel TBS instead.

What’s New
666 Park Avenue – a nice couple move into an apartment building that may be built on the Hellmouth, or some such. Terry O’Quinn (Lost) stars which is always a good start and it looks deliciously creepy.

The Family Tools (mid season) – the least handy son in history returns to town to take over the family handyman business, hilarity with nail guns ensues. What is Adam Arkin doing in this crap?

How to Live With Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life (midseason) – Sarah Chalke (Scrubs) moves back in with her parents, who are sort of horrific. I chuckled. I kind of hate myself but I did chuckle. What’s with the ridiculously long title though?!

Last Resort – A US nuclear submarine goes rogue, or was it the US government that went rogue and the submarine actually stayed true? I’m really not sure whether this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen or the most intriguing. It’s created by Shawn Ryan (The Unit, The Shield) though so it’s got a good pedigree.

Malibu Country – three generations of Tennessee women head to California and the middle one tries to launch a country music career. it’s hard to get past how awful the narration and the laughter track are on this, but if you fight through it you’ll eventually uncover something desperately unfunny.

Nashville – the cut-throat Country Music business. Nothing in the description appeals to me but the trailer really works, Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) and Hayden Panettier (Heroes) have a great spark and at least it’s something different.

The Neighbours – a family moves to the suburbs and turns out the neighbours are not just quirky, they’re also aliens. I don’t mind the aliens bit, it’s the quirky I couldn’t stand.

Zero Hour – Life’s gone downhill for Anthony Edwards, he used to be Mark Greene, hero of the ER now he’s stuck in this rubbish. it’s like Indiana Jones meets The Da Vinci Code, there’s Nazis and conspiracies and secrets and clocks and a lot of running around and peering at things. It looks terrible!

Mistresses – having just dispatched of a gaggle of desperate housewives, the next step I guess is desperate mistresses. There’s only a poor quality trailer which didn’t do a very good job of establishing characters but it seems to be a bunch of people cheating on their spouses. That doesn’t really chime with the ‘inspiring tale of life and love’ type thing the music and voiceover is telling me about.

Red Widow – like NBC’s The Mob Doctor this is another story of a woman being pulled into a ‘family business’ that she doesn’t want to be in. Being ABC though, there’s a lot more sobbing. I was just left completely meh from the trailer (which again is poor quality, because ABC region lock their trailers).

The Futon Critic
ABC’s website
The Guardian (I promise I wrote all the above before reading this, we’re so in synch it’s a bit scary!