Wednesday | 10:00 pm | ABC
It feels like I have been anxiously awaiting Nashville longer than almost any other pilot. Tami Taylor has long been been one of my fictional role models, and I’m too much of a scaredy-cat to watch American Horror Story, so it’s been a long time since I had enough Connie Britton in my life. Additionally, Nashville was frequently described as Country Strong for television, and I have watched the crap out of that movie. It’s an odd thing, since I’ve long stated that I hate country music, but in films I find it ridiculously appealing. I imagine if the show finds a wide audience, the music will explode on iTunes just like Glee did in 2009.
As for the actual pilot, I loved it. After watching so many new things that I could take or leave this year, it was so lovely to just be completely absorbed in something of quality. The plot follows Connie Britton as Rayna James, the “reigning queen” of country music that is beginning to see her ticket sales drop and an album be less than mega-successful as she is getting older. Her record label wants her to open for Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere), who’s basically a mean girl Taylor Swift. There’s a large cast of supporting characters orbiting around both leads, most importantly hunky band leader Deacon (Charles Esten) that Rayna used to be involved with, but may be poached (both romantically and musically) by Juliette.
Rayna’s family also plays a large part in the pilot. Her husband, played by Eric Close, is indignantly unemployed, and convinced to run for mayor of Nashville by Rayna’s manipulative politician father. That was the only part of the show that I didn’t care about, TBH, but it does lay some easy groundwork into Rayna’s character. She also has two adorable daughters, played by Lennon and Maisy Stella of Youtube fame. I can’t wait for them to sing on the show, and I imagine it won’t be long before they’re utilized.
All this adds up to a great character for Connie Britton to shine as, basically. Rayna James is definitely not Tami Taylor, and she’s better for it. While she was a sweet, southern superstar in many parts, she also had diva moments. Her issues with both Juliette, her father, and the record label were handled with none of Mrs. Coach’s grace. I’ve heard a couple people say that she was a lot less likeable because of this, but I found this more complex, fallible person that is Rayna James to be so much more appealing as the lead of a show. Juliette, on the other hand, is given much more of a straight-up villain treatment, with plenty of bitchy one-liners. Juliette sleeps with practically half the male cast in the pilot to get what she wants, which is quickly explained as a result of her non-relationship with her drug addict mother. It will be interesting to see how long Rayna and Juliette are kept at odds, or if they will fall into a friendship or even a mother-daughter type of relationship.
There’s also a trio of younger characters, who I imagine will be brought more fully into the main plot in coming episodes. Scarlett O’Connor (Clare Bowen) is Deacon’s niece, and writes poems that are actually beautiful songs. She’s got a bad boy musician boyfriend, but adorable Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio) helps her put her poems to music and obviously has a crush on her. I don’t really want to endure any more love triangle nonsense, but it’s probably inevitable with these three. And maybe Rayna/Deacon/Juliette besides. Oy.
But you know what? I can probably be sold on most aspects of the plot, as long as there’s plenty of singing. Of course, this is one of those things that pilots have months to perfect, so the quality could diminish from week to week, but every song from this episode is pretty much perfection. Connie Britton opens with “Already Gone” which is perfect; Hayden Panettiere’s “Love Like Mine” is damn catchy, and the snippet of “Boys and Buses” as well. Clare Bowen and Sam Palladio’s performance of The Civil Wars’ “If I Didn’t Know Better” was gorgeous, and was the only part of the pilot that actually did remind me of Country Strong. (Leighton Meester and Garrett Hedlund singing “Give In To Me” has to be one of my most watched Youtube videos.)
Long Term Prediction:
Highlight of my Wednesday nights, probably. I will also spend a lot of time singing country music, much to my own dismay.