EDITORIAL NOTE: To understand how we do our reviews, please refer to our review of Revolution, here.
Chart-topping Rayna James (Connie Britton) is a country legend who’s had a career any singer would envy, though lately her popularity is starting to wane. Fans still line up to get her autograph, but she’s not packing the arenas like she used to. Rayna’s record label thinks a concert tour, opening for up-and-comer Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere), the young and sexy future of country music, is just what Rayna needs. But scheming Juliette can’t wait to steal Rayna’s spotlight. Sharing a stage with that disrespectful, untalented, little vixen is the last thing Rayna wants to do, which sets up a power struggle for popularity. Could the undiscovered songwriting talent of Scarlett O’Connor (Clare Bowen) be the key to helping Rayna resurrect her career?
Complicating matters, Rayna’s wealthy but estranged father, Lamar Hampton (Powers Boothe), is a powerful force in business, Tennessee politics, and the lives of his two grown daughters. His drive for power results in a scheme to back Rayna’s handsome husband, Teddy, in a run for Mayor of Nashville, against Rayna’s wishes. – ABC
Score: 80 out of 100
Initial Impressions (July 20, 2012): Is it just us, or is this the country music version of NBC’s Smash? Proving that there is really hardly anything original in network prime-time drama, any more, Nashville, recycles a million and one film and television clichés in order to hobble together a weekly soap that all things considered, although not our cup of tea, doesn’t look particularly awful.
Shawn: As I noted in the preview, sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. This show is so reminiscent of Smash that on that level alone it induces eyeball rolling. That being said, it’s a pretty good show. I’m not going to spend too much time on Nashville not because it’s not worthy of it, but simply because it’s not the kind of show I have any real interest in. More than anything, it’s a soap and since it doesn’t involve plotting revenge against socialites in the Hamptons, it won’t find a spot in my DVR lineup… that and the fact that my wife has no interest in it, either.
The first thing that stands out is the epic nature of this production. From the opening scene, there really is no question that Connie Britton (Rayna James) and Hayden Panettierre (Juliette Barnes) are the country mega-stars that they portray on this new series. They’ve gone to great lengths to produce a show that looks believably big… as if our stars are really in arenas with thousands of screaming fans. It’s very effective because unlike a lot of other themed shows, nothing feels fake or contrived and it gives the show instant credibility with every other aspect of it.
The cast is diverse and the subplots are neatly woven together neatly so it’s fluid and nothing feels forced nor is it confusing. The characters are well-fleshed out and pretty complicated so that there’s no real bad guys, just a lot of competing agendas. Nashville is also very effective at making the city it’s named for and integral character to the story, from the modern high-rises in the business district, to the old hole-in-the-wall open-mic country music bars to the expansive suburbs, Nashville effectively incorporates every personality that the city offers which allows the audience to easily relate to it, despite the fact that they may never have been there.
The musical numbers are actually fantastic (and I’m not even a country music fan) but they are unfortunately also the reason why I got bored and was constantly checking the time. I could be wrong and maybe i’m expecting too much from a show that revolves around the music industry, but there were, from what I recalled, three complete music numbers during the pilot where nothing happened but the music numbers. That’s like 12 minutes out of a 42-minute show, or about 29% of it. In my book, that’s way too much.
So, if you like grand soaps with good music, you’ll certainly like Nashville.
Chance of Renewal: 80%
Nashville has had very strong ratings and on girl-powered ABC who has done traditionally very well with this format, this show should be successful.
Watch Nashville, here.