In a media obsessed world, networks rival each other in hopes to come up with the "best" new drama when the new television season rolls around and this year, one of ABC's most promoted dramas was this soapy tale of two rival country music stars. It has a unique voice - surprisingly, that will capture any music lover but ratings (ones that were dubbed, "solid") will tell if that alone is enough.
From the outside, the Conrad / Jaymes clan looks like any other all-American family. They live in a beautiful home and are a two-parent, two-child family that is seemingly happy. But they aren't normal nor are things all that rosy. It wasn't long ago that Rayna James (Connie Britton) was the future of country music but that was before two kids (Lennon and Maisy Stella), marriage and a home that she cannot afford to keep unless she continues to work. Her husband, Teddy (Eric Close) is working very little so the responsibility to keep their life intact falls to Rayna. She doesn't mind since her work is something she loves but in preparing to go out on yet another tour promoting the new album, her studio falls under new leadership, and they want her to pair up on tour with their newest sensation, the young Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere). Rayna is appalled at the suggestion after twenty-one years at the record label she feels like they owe her more than this ultimatum and she isn't about to degrade herself by coupling with Juliette, implying she believes the girl possesses any talent. If she doesn't open for Juliette, the label will no longer support her album, leaving Rayna with very few options.
Her decisions become less about music and more about the complications of family when her wealthy, power hungry father (Powers Boothe) vets her husband for mayor, a choice that leaves Rayna upset knowing that her father wants something from Teddy - something that will indebt him to the father-in-law he doesn't really know. This puts Rayna in a difficult position being friends with the man who would be her husband's competition. Rivalries are born - in more than one sphere of Rayna's life and juggling them be not be something she can handle without falling.
While watching the ABC network, I saw so many promo spots for Nashville that by the time its Wednesday night premiere rolled around, I commented that I felt like I'd seen the entire episode. This seemed "the" show the network relentlessly promoted. Given that it had the "look" of being a trashy nighttime soap opera, I was a bit taken aback that it has some talent in front of the camera and skilled writer's - or that is what the pilot reveals. If you suspected or expected this to be nothing but a music industry tug-of-war and rivalry between a fictional Martina McBride and Taylor Swift, you'd be very much mistaken. There is a lot going on in just episode one - from politics to horrible secrets - and yet, through it all, everything is set up nicely.
What a cast Nashville boasts. Not only did I delight in seeing Close in something again, supporting role or not but we also see familiar television veterans in Robert Wisdom, Charles Esten, Burgess Jenkins and of course, the lovely star, Connie Britton who is well known to fans of a certain NBC teen drama. Each of the actors put in a fabulous performance including convincing southern drawls if not the best of musical voices to go along with though none is more compelling than Britton. In this first hour, writers inundate us with characters but each is set up to become an important piece to the puzzle without being overwhelming. Lest you think this is going to be an uncomplicated show, think again. Already there are hints of bad blood in families, former flames that have never gotten over heartbreak, out-of-wedlock children and oh-so-many secrets. In addition to that, the whiny, pampered Juliette didn't come from privilege but she sure doesn't know how to be a class act - she sleeps with anyone who will benefit her purposes and then moves on. More than anything, it's a sad scenario because we do feel for her. She'd hurting in places she lets no one breach. The better qualities in Rayna are what we watch for because at the heart of the show, I think she will be what draws in viewers. First, the show has to survive its own rivalries.
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