Nashville made quite an impression on the critics in preseason screenings, and their praises were plastered across every promotional ad to hype the show for weeks now. Thelma and Louise writer Callie Khouri poured her touches just as creatively into this TV creation and, judging from this debut, got it just right with this tasty mix of music, fame, family matters, and scarring secrets.
The casting couldn’t be better with jewel, Connie Britton, as Rayna James, the country superstar who clawed her way to her top perch for 21 years with true country tunes; and Hayden Panetierre, perfectly suited as Juliette Barnes, the hot singer with a hook and the look but hardly a voice of perfection, leaving her producers saying “Thank God for Auto-tune.” Both women have family issues. Rayna would rather die than credit her powerful dad, Lamar Wyatt [Powers Booth], for anything, as payback for his being a pitiful parent, while Juliette has the world by the tail and offers out the window, but a mother who’s a strung-out drug addict, who always has her daughter’s number for the wrong reasons. Woven into this tuneful tapestry of the city are songwriters, ex-lovers, and band mates, some all in the same character, who make for compelling viewing far beyond fresh eye candy. The series is rich in its reflection of its real namesake, including landmarks such as The Bluebird CafÃ©, and giving parts to true music artists and actors, such as J D Souther.
Fighting that forlorn era that comes to every established artist, when the calls aren’t coming by the thousands, and neither are the fans to the venues. Rayna is told by the label she feels she “made” as her home for 21 years that she must either go out on tour as the opening act for the rising Juliette, no matter the euphemistic “co-headlining” verbal con, or move on. She storms out of the meeting with her new boss, and faces challenges at home, as her husband accepts her father’s push to put him into politics for the city’s mayor, and she has to weigh her allegiance. She sees herself as star and breadwinner, as her husband’s vocational efforts were dashed. She describes Dad as “always there when he needs you,” and he further salts her emotional wounds by touting himself as the one who made her career, as her sister has carried on in cow-tow to Daddy’s demands. Will she play the good wife as she dreams of rebuilding her relevance in the business?
Rayna has her loyalists, including songwriter, lost lover, and band-mate Deacon, who dreams of his songs going big, but still holds memories of the past. Juliette propositions him boldly one night at The Bluebird, and he succumbs to the temptation in the final scenes. Forcing herself to fit into pop country, Rayna has raging moments of a diva, making her clan cohesion even more difficult.
Just as she is about to play the dutiful wife, at last appearing with her husband after his speech, she gets a call from longtime songwriter Watty, who asks her to listen to Deacon’s niece and an impromptu collaborator singing over the phone on “mic night,” and the spark is shared between the two to somehow get this song. Her duty and her new demo culminate at once.
Nashville has the authentic, poignant touches of Crazy Heart done for television, with very credible compositions crafted for the show that are meant to be far more than filler music, but also the spice of a few of Robert Altman’s character creations. Fans are in for some tasty, twangy fun over the next few weeks. Bravo and yee-haw for this clever, creative meld of music and drama.