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ABC’s Nashville – CliqueClack Preview

ABC'S 'Nashville' is a solid show with a great lead performance by Connie Britton. Whether you are a fan of country music or not, if you like soaps that aren't too campy, you should give this a try come Fall.

As I watched the new ABC show Nashville, two things occurred to me. The first is that I was undoubtedly enjoying it, even though I am not really the target audience. The second was that even though I am not the target audience, there is a potentially huge one for this show because, let’s face it, country music is huge. The pilot is pretty solid, and ABC could have a hit on its hands.

The pilot wastes no time in dropping us into the country music scene in Nashville, where our primary focus is country legend Rayna James, played by Connie Britton (aka Mrs. Coach to me). She is trying to deal with family and financial issues while watching the limelight increasingly being taken over by younger stars like Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere). Juliette is young, hot, a schemer and — most importantly — lighting up the charts.

It seems like the series will be building up to a clash between these two ladies, but there are also a number of other things going on. Rayna and her father, a powerful man from a seemingly old Nashville family, don’t get along. He’s played by Powers Boothe, so you can tell right away that he’s pretty evil. There is also a bit of tension with Rayna’s husband, Teddy (Eric Close), a n’er-do-well who is trying to do better for his family. Add in Juliette Barnes causing trouble, a band member who is an old flame (Charles Esten), and Rayna’s got her hands full. Oh, and Juliette’s got family issues too, and there are a couple of up-and-coming singer-songwriters …

As you can tell, the pilot is jam-packed. But it doesn’t FEEL jam packed. The writers quickly establish each situation and give us enough of it to make us want to know more without making it feel like there is too much exposition. I guess there are currently enough turning points in Rayna’s life that the exposition fits in naturally. Despite Britton and Panettiere’s big hair (which they both wear well) and the soapiness of some of the show’s premises, it doesn’t veer off too much into campy territory. I like some camp, but I appreciate that Nashville is taking country music more seriously than that, even though it’s a world inhabited by big personalities.

Connie Britton, known for her naturalistic work on Friday Night Lights, walks a very fine line between playing a superstar and being campy and over-the-top. It’s a tall order, but she plays Rayna with ease, making her distinct from Mrs. Coach despite the southern accent and big hair. Rayna is, after all, a diva even though she seems to be pretty nice as divas go. The show is well done, but Britton is a big reason for tuning in. As for Panettiere, she looks good and plays someone catty well enough. She had some vulnerable moments that came over fairly well, though, and I hope this role helps her stretch as an actress. (Britton and Panettiere both sing themselves and are serviceable in the snippets we see in the pilot.)

Nashville, for good or ill, will be compared a lot to fellow musical shows Glee and Smash, but the similarities are superficial at best. Nashville is more serious in tone, for one thing. Also, the other two shows use music in part to create fantasy worlds, but Nashville does not, at least not in the pilot. In fact, the music is kind of secondary until two young performers (Clare Bowen and Sam Palladio) play a very moving a song at the end of the pilot.

I don’t know country music well, which is why I said I am not the target audience for this show, but in that moment, I could see why country appeals to so many people. It has a soul that transcends the machinations of the people who are trying to make money from it. If that conflict remains at the heart of the series, then, target or not, I am willing to see where it goes.

Nashville airs this Fall on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EST on ABC.

Photo Credit: ABC

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3 Responses to “ABC’s Nashville – CliqueClack Preview”

July 5, 2012 at 3:00 PM

What makes you “not the target audience?”

July 5, 2012 at 3:02 PM

I explained in the last paragraph: I don’t know country music very well at all. That is actually an understatement, though, because unless we’re talking a ver few exceptions, I really can’t stand country music.

July 5, 2012 at 3:24 PM

I am excited to watch this show too, even though I’m with you, Christina — NOT a country music fan. But I heart Mrs. Coach. :)

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