TV Review - Nashville

Connie Britton in "Nashville"
Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) stars as Rayna Jaymes, a veteran country singer who isn't selling records like she used to do, but she is a legitimate talent. Hayden Panettiere co-stars as Juliette Barnes, a young country singer who is more of a pop star who doesn't have the talent of Rayna, if barely any talent at all. At least, that's what we're led to believe. The characters and dynamic are similar to Crazy Heart (2009) and Country Strong (2010).

The pilot episode opens with performances from Rayna followed by Juliette in the Grand Ole Opry. It didn't look like a fake. It looked as if it might be the real Grand Ole Opry. Given the show is actually filmed in Nashville, Tennessee, it very well could be. The episode was produced and directed by R.J. Cutler, a well-known documentary filmmaker who is accustomed to shooting in real locations, as opposed to Hollywood sets. Cutler brings that documentary sensibility to this, not the sensibility of someone searching for shots but the sensibility of someone searching for authenticity and frequently finding it.

I love the way this show is photographed. I love where the show is photographed and not simply for Nashville's exteriors but also for one of its interiors. One location in particular is the Bluebird Cafe, an actual music nightclub, which got Garth Brooks a record deal in 1987 and was where Taylor Swift was discovered at age 15. Creator and head writer Callie Khouri used that. Her character of Scarlet O'Connor, played by Australian actress Clare Bowen, is a reflection of that.

The pilot episode gives some lip service to the changing music industry, but the central argument is limited to young versus old. A lot of other issues arise. A few of which, I'd love to see the series explore. Those issues aren't anything new. If you've seen NBC's Smash or the defunct series GCB, then nothing here will be a surprise. It's basically the realities, the hopes and disappointments of show-business mixed with the hospitalities and hostilities of southern lifestyle. What makes this show better is the phenomenal cast.

That being said, Rayna is basically doing her impression of The Good Wife, and that's because Khouri lays out all this political stuff. Whatever momentum was built in the pilot, the political stuff in the second slows that momentum. It all just feels tedious and boring like something out of Dallas, except with no unique direction. I get a sense of where the show is going and it's lame.

Right now, Rayna and Juliette are in a semi-love triangle with a guitarist and songwriter named Deacon Claybourne, played by Charles Esten. I understand why Rayna wants him. They have a history. They might actually be in love. What I don't understand is Juliette's obsession with Deacon. She claims that he can help her in some way, but I don't get why she thinks he's so special. The way she fixates on him, you'd think Deacon was T. Bone Burnett who is the real-life songwriter and music producer who provides the soundtrack for this show.

Maybe Deacon is the T. Bone Burnett of this show, but nothing in the first two episodes set that up. While I enjoyed the songs that were being sung, I was scratching my head at this pointless triangle. That being said, the songs are great. They're beautiful and heartfelt, pure Americana as is Burnett's expertise and he delivers.

Four Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-PG-L.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Airs Wednesdays at 10PM on ABC.


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