Fall TV Preview: 'Nashville'
Photography: Craig Sjodin/Courtesy American Broadcasting Companies Inc.
Nashville, premiering Oct. 10 on ABC.
Country music icon Rayna James, played by Connie Britton (American Horror Story and Friday Night Lights), is sitting on top of the world. So, of course, since she’s the central character in a prime time “continuing drama” (aka soap opera), she is in serious danger of crashing to earth.
In the first episode of Nashville, which will air on ABC on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. Eastern time starting Oct. 10, Rayna is introduced as a living legend who’s growing increasingly anxious about a dry spell in her stellar career. Her latest album has tanked, ticket sales for her upcoming concert tour are underwhelming, and, as her husband, Teddy (Eric Close), only half-jokingly tells their young children, the James family is “a different kind of rich, called cash-poor,” due in no small measure to Teddy’s unfortunate investments.
The suits at Rayna’s record label pointedly suggest that if she’d like to remain in their good graces — that is, if she’d like to get any promotion at all for her album and/or tour — she would do well to agree to “co-headline” a tour with a hot new up-and-comer. That’s something Rayna would find humiliating even if she respected the person who’d be sharing the spotlight with her. But she finds it well-nigh unacceptable, if not downright insulting, that the suits want her to tour with Juliette Barnes, played by Hayden Panettiere (Heroes), a sassy and duplicitous spitfire who comes across like the unlikely love child of Taylor Swift and J.R. Ewing.
Speaking of J.R.: That Dallas bad boy would doubtless spot a soul mate in Rayna’s filthy rich father, Lamar Wyatt, played by Powers Boothe (Hatfields & McCoys, Deadwood, 24), a conniving string-puller who wants his son-in-law to run for mayor of Music City. Wyatt is a transparently untrustworthy rogue, even when he’s waxing eloquent about his hometown as “a thriving and prosperous city, an industrial juggernaut.” (Rayna sees right through the guy: “He’s always there when he needs you.”) But Teddy readily — and, perhaps, naively — agrees to throw his hat into the ring, if only to finally emerge from his wife’s shadow.
The Nashville pilot, which was enthusiastically received when previewed this summer at the CMA Music Festival, does a fine job of briskly introducing a multitude of vividly drawn characters and intriguing plot possibilities. (Credit series creator Callie Khouri, the Oscar-winning scriptwriter of Thelma & Louise, for setting the table so efficiently.) Viewers who tune in to the series premiere almost certainly will come back for more musical melodrama: Just how close is Rayna to her hunky bandleader? And what will the self-described diva do if and when she discovers that pretender-to-the-throne Juliette has designs on the guy?
Not incidentally, Nashville will be filmed on location in Music City, meaning viewers will enjoy a fair amount of sightseeing — the pilot offers glimpses of the Grand Ole Opry and The Bluebird Cafe — along with a heaping helping of country music. Don’t be surprised if the producers take their cue from Glee and Smash and offer tunes for downloading. Who knew “Mrs. Coach” could sing?