Believe the hype.
This show is going to be good. All hail the alluring, enticing, and promising return of the night time soap!
Connie Britton plays Rayna Jaymes, a country music sweetheart of yester-year whose record and ticket sales aren’t what they used to be. Faced with label pressure to “co-headline” with the new, young, cross-over success, Juliette Barnes (Panettiere), Jaymes decides to walk away from the label she feels she helped build.
Her husband is working to recover from some financial losses incurred in the recent economic climate that’s made them “cash poor.” She’s conflicted, because although she would probably like to take a break from music and work according more to her own schedule, she feels pressured to keep up the family’s standard of living. Rayna has absolutely no interest in being pushed out of her career by a young blond who everyone knows can’t really sing, but will flirt her ass off.
The interesting dynamic at play here is old cow versus new cow, and the cyclic tension women experience with one another as ultimately relates to their fertility and perceived sense of worth in society. I mean isn’t that all it comes down to when older women catch attitudes with, and typically resist the introduction of younger girls?
Though, on Nashville, Rayna didn’t catch an attitude with Juliette. Upon their initial meeting Rayna is warm and friendly – her character is set up as giving great face, while Juliette is dismissive and bold-faced. Which also brings up another interesting point of young people having a general lack of respect for what’s come before. But such is the folly of youth, no?
Anyway, back to Nashville…
Juliette Barnes is a new money, new millennium-style pop star. She’s tarty, she’s rude, she’s young and paid. She doesn’t really care for Rayna. She wants Rayna’s guitarist. She’s screwing her producer in broom closets. She specializes in “emotional avoidance sex.” She’s avoiding her meth’d out mama – and here is the biggest clue into the fabric of her character. Her mother’s drug addiction and failure at life is the ghost on her coattails. Juliette will do whatever, and whoever it takes to make sure she succeeds, and it’s fucking wonderful!
Raynas’ father, Lamar Wyatt, is a powerful member of the community who wants to build a baseball stadium and has decided his son-in-law should run for mayor so there’s someone in his pocket to guarantee is endeavors. Rayne is not about her father at all. She refuses his money and likes to spend as little time with him as possible.
There’s one scene in his dining room where he gets awful close to her and threatens to push something from her past into her present. It’s one of those high charged familial drama situations that lots of people can relate to – whether they’d like to admit it or not.
The actor’s played it beautifully. Lamar gets in Rayna’s face, and she backs away in a sort of child-like terror while crying out at him in anger. It was some powerful shit.
There are other characters who’s outlines have been drawn very nicely, and there’s plenty of potential for Nashville to be a long-lasting drama, in the vein of the greats before it – Dynasty, Knots Landing, Colby’s, and Dallas. The show has a solid mix of experienced television actors, family drama, business dealings, and modern relevance (new music vs. old, the recession).
The location shots came out of the screen and enveloped me, immediately making it feel like I knew Nashville, even though I’ve never been. Quick scene changes held my attention as the show rapidly set itself up and introduced its cast. The dialogue does well to match pace, establishing familiarity and history – which is a cornerstone of this story – forcing the viewer to keep up, as opposed to remembering they’re watching a pilot. Each character is well defined and believable, and none felt overacted.
Nashville can go anywhere because it’s so character driven. It isn’t as boxed into it’s musical setting the same way Grey’s Anatomy is bound to Seattle Grace, or how Revenge must ultimately reach its conclusion through revelation.
What sets Nashville apart from its predecessors at the network (Alias, Lost, Revenge, Grey’s Anatomy, Brothers & Sisters, and Private Practice) is its humanity and realism as opposed to high doses of repetitive sensationalism. The characters are believable, layered, emotionally rich, and realistic. They offer numerous avenues for exploration – which is the very most you can ask for out of drama.
Rayna is driving her daughters home from school and they talk about how they want to come on tour with her. She tells them they can do that just as soon as they graduate college. Then a Juliette Barnes song comes on the radio and the girls start singing along. Rayna has already made her disdain for Barnes new-pop-tartiness obvious to the viewers by this point in the program, and switches off the radio.
Aw, Mom come on!
“Mama’s got a headache.”