Fall 2012 Review: Nashville

16 Oct

I always love to hear of a pilot that doesn’t immediately sound like any other program I can think of.  Sure, when you get down to the nuts and bolts, almost every show incorporates elements from other shows, and that’s natural.  It’s not the most important factor into whether a show is actually good, but it is amongst the most important factors in determining whether a new show sounds interesting before you actually watch.  Nashville, based around the country music world in the titular city, seems very likely to be both new and good, based on the pilot, a rare and welcome combination.

Nashville has a fairly decent amount of moving parts for a show that’s not a complicated conspiracy show like Last Resort or Revolution.  Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights’ Tami Taylor) plays aging country star Rayna James, who finds out to her dismay that she doesn’t have as much juice as she once did, and her record and upcoming tour aren’t selling..  Because of this, her label wants her to open for hot young country thing Juliette Barnes (Heroes’ Hayden Panettierre), who is after James’ bandleader, for personal and professional reasons, as well as her fame.  Neither of the woman like one another; James sees Barnes as a flash in the pan making adolescent garbage, while Barnes sees James as an aging fossil whose time has come.

As if this music angle wasn’t enough, it turns out that James’ father Lamar Wyatt (Powers Boothe) is one of the most powerful men in Nashville.  The two of them don’t get along great, but they communicate through James’ sister, who is being groomed to take over the family business when their father retires.  Lamar wants James’ husband, Teddy, frustrated with not being the breadwinner in his family for years, to run for mayor against James’ friend, Coleman Carlisle (played by The Wire’s Bunny Colvin himself, Robert Wisdom).  James then has to deal with conflicting loyalties personally and professionally, which deal with her career, the future of country music, and the future of the city of Nashville.

I’m not sure exactly who else the other main characters are going to be, and what kind of role they will be play, but there’s a legendary old songwriter who is friends with James, James’s bandleader’s niece, who is a poet and possibly an up and coming songwriter, the niece’s boyfriend, a bad boy type, and some other young songwriter, all of which I didn’t get a great feel for initially due to the logical focus on James and Barnes in the first episode.

James and Barnes were plenty compelling on their own even after just forty minutes.  While ostensibly James is the hero and Barnes the villain, both characters already seem like they should be far more multifaceted than that.  James exhibits occasional diva-like behavior, and though understandably upset with her lack of popularity, is less than graceful when coming to terms with the reality of her difficult situation.  Barnes is mostly an ambitious man-hungry prima donna who has trouble being nice even for a few minutes, but her possible character building set up involves a drug addict mother constantly calling her for money.  I think there’s lots of possibilities for complex relationships between characters which are neither perfect nor evil, and these are good things.

Will I watch it again?  Yes.  From pilot alone, I think it’s the best hour long I’ve seen this season, with Last Resort the only other in contention.  I was excited before I saw it, and I’m even more excited afterwards.  We could have the makings of a really strong show.  This show received the greatest possible endorsement when, after finishing the first episode, I realized I wished I had a second to throw on right away.

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