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Has a Once Promising Drama Ever Fallen So Far, So Fast?

By Dustin Rowles | TV Reviews | November 13, 2012 | Comments ()


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The network show I was most looking forward to this season was ABC's "Nashville," a country-and-western drama starring Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere as rivals in the music business. I didn't expect too much out of the show from Callie Khouri (Thelma and Louise), but with Britton on board and given a perfect venue to Tami-Taylor sashay across the screen, I expected a modestly entertaining drama featuring twangy musical performances that I'd likely fast-forward through. When the pilot arrived, I was pleasantly surprised that "Nashville" not only exceeded those expectations, but that the music -- produced by T. Bone Burnett -- was the best thing about "Nashville."

Five episodes into the freshman season, and now the music is the only good thing remaining in "Nashville," a show that, narratively, has barely advanced beyond the pilot, while the writing continues to grow weaker and more cringeworthy by the episode. A good Southern lilt can save a lot of bad writing, but it can't salvage the platitudes, nor the love-sick dialogue that would make Taylor Swift blanch with embarrassment.

The pilot laid out the narrative threads that "Nashville" would take up this season: A veteran country musician Rayna James (Britton) is trying to contend with the modern music business where singles, sex, and auto-tuning are prized above soulful songwriting, albums, and personality, while the young sensation, Juliette Barnes (Panettiere), represents everything Rayna dislikes about the contemporary Nashville. Stuck in between is Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten), an ex-lover and ex-member of Rayna's band who is being pursued as band leader by Barnes, while Rayna -- booted from her stadium tour by lagging record sales -- wants to go on a smaller, intimate tour with Deacon. There's a lot of sexual friction between Rayna and Deacon owed to their shared history, while there's an equal amount of chemistry between Deacon and Juliette, owed the fact that she's young and pretty and he has a penis.

On the side, Rayna's husband is running for mayor of Nashville, although he's expected only to be a figurehead for Rayna's father (Powers Boothe), with whom Rayna has a strained relationship. Meanwhile .Juliette is also dealing with a drug-abusing mother who is an embarrassment to her career and a reminder of her white-trash upbringing. A third major arc is also opened up by two fledgling songwriters in the midst of their own love triangle. Their music performances have anchored the show so far, but their acting abilities represent the low point of the series.

Five episodes into the season, and everything is about where it began: Deacon is still vacillating between touring with his ex-flame or the young blonde who is f**king him, while the option for Rayna to open for Juliette laid out in the pilot is still on the table (and will likely be taken up by mid-season). Rayna's husband is still running for mayor, while also attempting to stave off a financial scandal, and the two fledgling songwriters are still fledgling and still wrestling with competing affections. It's one of those shows where you can fill all of the season's major plot developments into a 20-second previously on segment.

But the tunes are great; the songs work seamlessly within the narrative, and the music is typically the only genuine, authentic thing about the show. Unfortunately, the story lines are treading water, killing time dealing with silly scandals like the public relations nightmare Juliette ignited by stealing a bottle of nail polish. Likewise, the relationship between Juliette and Deacon is laughable, while Deacon and Rayna's husband are so interchangeable that it doesn't seem to matter who she chooses; she'll be waking up with the same, bland face in the morning, and the chemistry will lack with either choice. They lack relative to the the towering presence of Connie Britton, and it shows.

The biggest problem with "Nashville," besides the increasingly bad writing, the flat characters, and inert story lines, is that the stakes are too low in "Nashville" compared to most of today's best cable dramas. Shows like "Boardwalk Empire," "Dexter," "Game of Thrones," and "The Walking Dead," are dropping bombshells, shocking twists, or killing off major characters week-after-week, while over in "Nashville," an annoying flash-in-the-pan country singer is shoplifting nail polish. You can get away with lower stakes if your show has a lot of heart or characters you feel fully invested in (see "Parenthood"), of if your show is anchored by solid writing and outstanding performances (see "The Good Wife") but "Nashville" has none of that; it only has good music. Indeed, yesterday's announcement that the drama has been picked up for a full season means that it will air a full 23 episodes. Unfortunately, unless the stakes are raised, and the moving parts actually start to move, I don't see myself watching many more than seven or eight before it's cancelled from my DVR.



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Comments Are Welcome, Douches Are Not


  • Donna SHerman

    Smash, Smash, Smash, Smash, Smash.

  • Kris

    Nashville has mostly surprised me with the music. I don’t even like country, but I’ll admit that a few of the songs that have been on this show are a little catchy. There’s enough drama packed into this show that a full-season shouldn’t be surprising. I heard from a few coworkers from DISH today that this and ABC’s show The Neighbors were given full seasons. Have you seen that show?! Yikes! I watched the first episode because I’ve set the Hopper I got from DISH to record all the primetime shows from the four major networks. I’m grateful I was able to find out without much effort that it’s definitely a dud!

  • CurlieQt

    Heroes?

  • Fabius_Maximus

    What does Bowie have to do with this?

  • CurlieQt

    ha!

  • Fabius_Maximus

    A show with Hayden Panetierre sucks? You don't say!

  • Devin McMusters

    That debut epi was good enough to buy a whole season of good will for me. The song that the little waitress sang at the end of the premiere was phenomenal.

  • I wanted to like Nashville so much, and I just can't. Connie Britton is so fantastic, it just isn't. I think what I really want is an FNL spin off about the new life of Coach and Mrs. Coach in Philadelphia. I know it's never gonna happen, but a girl can dream, okay?

  • Devin McMusters

    Okay, you FNL folks have got to get over it. It's gone. Nashville is still great. Clare Bowen is an absolute star as Scarlet.

  • Bucky

    Seriously? Scarlet is among the worst things about the show, and there are a lot of bad things about the show. I loved the pilot, and I love Connie Britton, but this how has issues.

  • googergieger

    Nashville seems like a show for middle aged soccer moms.

    *remembers who wrote article*

    Seems about right.

  • I caught up on the series last week and was thoroughly entertained, but the latest episode was incredibly boring. These characters haven't earned enough of my interest to do nothing but fight. And would it kill them to bring back those cute YouTube sensation daughters for some light-hearted moments? Thx.

  • jennym84

    I still really like it. Not all freshmen shows find their pacing straight out of the gate. Hopefully it'll pick up a bit more during sweeps, and now that they've gotten an order for the back 9 they can figure out the pacing issues.

  • BabyBearStrikesAgain

    Awww. Don't say that! I still have hope. I fell in love with this show in the first two episodes. I still really like it and will definitely keep watching it, but now I'm just hoping the whole husband running for mayor story-line will die soon.

  • Esten needs to check himself and remember that he is CHIP Esten of Whose Line is it Anyway? and never forget it.

  • Puddin

    Or, as my husband put it so perfectly--"He's the Skeet Ulrich to Wayne Brady's Johnny Depp."

  • ed newman

    I watched the first episode and was okay with it. I was surprised that the music was the best part, especially since I am not one for the genre. I didn't care enough to watch beyond the second episode, but the Mrs. is hooked big time and hasn't complained at all about the plot or performances.

  • DemonWaterPolo

    I clicked on the link thinking this article would be about "Revenge". I should have guessed it would be about "Nashville", but that was my gut reaction. I didn't even watch this week's episode because last week's was so bad. I felt like it had a solid base to be interesting and it has veered so very far away from interesting.

  • I thought the same thing!

  • dizzylucy

    Still like the show, but have to agree. I thought the pilot was impressive how it laid out so much story but didn't feel overstuffed, yet it really hasn't gone anywhere.
    I like this music too, and have never cared for country music. I think it's pop-country that turns me off, good singer-songwriter folk/country I can enjoy.

  • Good music? Really? All I've heard in the show so far is country music, which is wall-to-wall atrocious.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    "Oh, we got both kinds. We got Country and Western."

  • firedmyass

    Hush, turd.

  • DeistBrawler

    Did you really edit out fucking?

    Are we becoming a clean Pajiba? Have I missed that much?

    Also, the show. Yes to everything you've said. They need to advance one of the plot lines. Someone has to go somewhere or do something.

  • Jezzer

    Yeah, I don't understand the clutching of pearls over the word FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCKITY FUCK, but I think Pajiba's trying to appeal to a broader base.

    To which I say, FUCK THE BROADER BASE. FUCK IT RIGHT IN ITS PEEHOLE.

  • firedmyass

    Well, that was crass and belligerant.

    (I have no problem with this.)

  • Jezzer

    I try. :3

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