After months and months of speculation, my inclination was right. Nashville is the best show of the new batch of shows this fall.
The acting is superb. The editing is sharp. The production value is high. The story is juicy. The music is catchy. It’s just an all-around great show.
In the pilot episode, we meet Rayna Jones (Connie Britton) and Juliette Barns (Hayden Panettiere). Rayna is an old-time country music queen—not yet washed up but not quite the hottest thing around any longer. Rayna is a sassy, strong-minded, and genuine woman, a mother of two girls who adore her. Meanwhile, the newly-famous Juliette is the latest sensation in the country music world and beyond. She’s young, talented, and beloved, but, behind the scenes, the bright lights of Music City have clearly gone to her head—leaving her acting rude, impatient, and as if she has the world wrapped around her finger (see the juxtaposition between the two ladies?). Rayna and family are strapped for cash (as husband Teddy tells his daughters, “We’re rich. But, we’re what’s called cash-poor.”)—since her latest album sales are mediocre at best and her upcoming tour is not selling to expectations. And so when she is treated indifferently by Juliette upon introduction, she wonders whether she should even take seriously her managers’ suggestion to pair up with Juliette on tour. In the end, she tells her record label head to “kiss her decision as she walks out the door” when he essentially gives her an ultimatum on the same premises. Maybe her pride is too big? Or maybe she has confidence that a better idea to resurge her career has yet to come along? Outside of the public eye, Rayna has a seemingly rocky relationship with her husband. Throughout the episode, we get hints of a marriage that was settled, an illegitimate daughter, and various affair. Oh yeah. And her father is one of Nashville’s most influential entrepreneurs—the kind people are afraid to tell no and the kind that looks to control everything in sight. This does not make his relationship with Rayna a good one. She tolerates him. (But, we’ll see how well she’ll compose herself after she finds out how hard he’s been pressing Teddy to run for mayor of Nashville, a position Rayna already feels should go to the current mayor, whom she’s friends with.) Meanwhile, Juliette may not be the downright bitch she behaves as. We learn that she’s estranged from her mother (see the juxtaposition again?), who is a serious drug addict and constantly begging Juliette for money. This destroys Juliette, and perhaps this is the reason that she’s brought to tears by the slightest mention of home or childhood memories in a song. But, she’s also addicted to sex. She sleeps with or attempts to sleep with three people in the very first 42 minutes of the series—not to mention, one of whom is an industry executive and a confidant of Rayna’s and another is one of Rayna’s band members! Juliette is not impressed by Rayna, and we’re left wondering how she’ll react when she gets pitched the idea of combining tours.
ABC has clearly invested a lot of money into this show. The costumes are so appropriately country, the makeup is great, and the cinematography is bright and colorful. Even the actors’ accents are spot on, and I assume that required a little bit of coaching here and there. The production is just very detail-oriented. In a particular scene where Rayna is talking to an old fling on a bridge that spans the Tennessee River, you see the wind—a staple to the Nashville climate—blowing her hair. All of this makes the show feel authentic, and that’s important if this is going to work in the long-run.
As far as the story goes, it’s fresh enough to feel like a real treat for viewers. Country music is the most successful genre of American music, so it’s about time people try to capitalize on it. The numerous twists and turns we got in the pilot feel like they can pan out well throughout the next 12 episodes, and yet, none of them feel ridiculous enough (as melodramatic soap opera story lines often do) to turn us off or instill doubt in our mind on how the show might play out.
I honestly cannot think of one thing I did not like about the show. I think there was a lot going on in the very first episode, so my word of caution might be for writers not to bog down the story with too many plotlines, twists, or characters. Also, Juliette being a hardcore bitch all the time might get old fast, so I hope the writers give doses of kindness and sincerity here and there so that we feel we are getting to know more of her than just what’s on the outside.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge country music fan. So, perhaps this all comes across as bias. But, take my word and give it a shot. You won’t regret it.
Good job, ABC!