Nashville premiered on ABC television last Wednesday at 10pm. If you’re anything like me, you had to be begged or bribed to watch it because of the title. It’s not that I dislike Country music. In fact I love country folk and bluegrass and even some alt country. But I never “got” the Southern ambiance, and I wondered if this series would make any sense to me. I once spent at year attending school in Knoxville, Tennessee and let me just say that while the Blue Ridge mountains are beautiful, a football obsessed town is not a good cultural “fit” for this native New Yorker.
Therefore I’m happy to say that you can be southern, northern, western or even urban and still find something compelling about this series. It stars the always fascinating Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights, American Horror Story) as the fading Queen of country music, Rayna Jaymes. Britton does her own vocals and she sounds terrific. Hayden Panettiere (Heroes) stars as her baby faced nemesis Juliette Barnes. She’s an oversexed, auto-tuned monster, as cute as a Pomeranian but with the bite of a Pit Bull. Juliette grew up in a troubled home; absent Dad, Meth addict mom. She was destined to be the terror of her local trailer park, but is instead a fast rising cross-over star ala’ Taylor Swift. In her spare time she’s starting a business empire by marketing her own perfume and her new hobby is making Rayna’s life a living hell. When they are first introduced she tells gushes that the aging Rayna is “her Mom’s favorite”. There will be no further need to watch Internet cat videos when these two get their claws out. It’s a more interesting rivalry than the one between the cast members Karen and Ivy on NBC’s Smash, mainly because cattiness is a blood sport for some southern girls and they are very, very good at it. If you have any doubt, see Vivian Leigh’s performance in the classic movie Gone With The Wind. She was all fiddle-dee-dee on the outside and “I’m gonna rip out your eyeballs and feed them to your little sister” on the inside.
There’s more tension from Rayna’s family members too, so she will be quite stressed out in this series. Her husband is a stay-at-home Dad who just happens to be running for Mayor. Her father Lamar Wyatt (Emmy winner Powers Boothe) is a wealthy industrialist and political king maker. He’s a control freak and a snake but will make a convincing villain for the series if they let him become a bit less one-dimensional. Layered bad guys are all the rage these days (Dexter, Breaking Bad, Mad Men) so I hope they will allow Lamar to evolve.
If you’re able to access the pilot that aired last week (you can stream it from the website), pay close attention to the last ten minutes. We’re introduced to Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio) an affable song writer with a fierce falsetto and a remarkable resemblance to a young Bruce Springsteen. He’s paired with Scarlett O’Connor, a shy gorgeous poet who may herself be on the way to country music stardom. The alt country duet they sing is mesmerizing. I predict a lot of real life downloads for that song which (like all the music in Nashville) is available on iTunes.
More fireworks are anticipated in episode two. Juliette's making a video dressed in white Daisy Dukes and a bustier. Rayna's manager wants to pair her on stage with an old beau to spice up her lagging concert ticket sales. Save me a seat!