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Culture, Reviews, Television

Nashville: Pilot

It’s so great to hear Connie Britton say y’all on my TV screen again.

I was always going to give Nashville a shot since it’s more up my alley than American Horror Story, and I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed.  Self-assured acting, credible music, pretty scenery and a script that balances both soapy fantasticness and well-observed details about the entertainment industry has convinced me to be in for the season.

Rayna James (Britton) is the current queen (I’m certain that the name was intentional) of country music, but her most recent record has’t been selling as well as her label would hope.  Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) is the wildly popular blonde cross-over artist with a bit of an attitude problem and a secret she’d rather her fans not know.

Since this is an nighttime soap on ABC, of course love triangles abound.  I expected nothing less but the performances make them compelling.  Rayna is married with two kids to affable, though easily swayed (more on that in a bit) Teddy (Eric Close). But she still carries a little torch for Deacon (Charles Esten) her charming, failed solo-artist bandleader, whom Juliette wants to poach.

This was my favorite scene from the pilot. The chemistry between Britton and Esten felt very lived-in and it’s a testament to Callie Khouri’s (Thelma and Louise) writing that it makes sense Rayna would confide in Deacon first about potentially having to throw in her lot with Juliette.

The music industry plots are the big draw, and they feel on point, which isn’t surprising given T. Bone Burnett’s CV.  Details like the brief shot of the monstrous “All My Angels” poster in the record label’s lobby dwarfing Rayna’s “Sweet Sorrow” album art, Deacon’s haunted performance at the famed Bluebird Cafe and the catchy vapidity of Juliette’s song lyrics (and Rayna’s hilarious incredulity every time she hears them) all rang true.

The story line about Teddy’s mayoral run has the potential to slow things down a bit, but I’m cautiously optimistic because Powers Boothe (24, Deadwood) is giving an excellent performance as Rayna’s father.  He’s a looming, Mephistophelian presence over the series so far, and the character seems to be a fan of the J.R. Ewing parenting handbook, which should be interesting to see play out.

Clare Bowen (Deacon’s niece, Scarlett) has a great voice, and I understand the need to have a character that has some naivete, but I can see the whole guileless ingenue who writes poetry (and has two boys in love with her) thing getting a little dull unless she’s set up as a foil for Juliette, which would definitely play well to Panettiere’s bitchy but sympathetic strengths.

I guess I just have one question left.  When can Kyle Chandler stop by for a guest arc?



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