TV Series Review

Rayna doesn't just sing country songs. She lives them.

Her husband don't love her like he should. She shouldn't love her music partner like she does. That pretty young thang who's trying to poach her spotlight (and her partner and her fans) had better just sit her Taylor Swift-self down and chill out before Rayna decides to go all Loretta Lynn on her. The only thing we're really missing here in ABC's Nashville is a dead dog and a broken-down truck. But it's early. We haven't even hit the chorus yet.

Nashville was perhaps network television's most anticipated show for the 2012 season—a promised blend of soapy romance, big business intrigue and some honest-to-goodness country music crooning. But while the drama may still have its new-series smell, the central premise is as old as country music itself.

Rayna is an aging star struggling to keep her place in country music's firmament. She's still got the pipes and still commands respect. But her records aren't selling like they used to, and she can't fill stadiums anymore. She's vinyl in a download world, a Walkman in the age of iPod.

Juliette Barnes is everything Rayna's not: young, hip and oh-so popular. All the tweens go crazy for her pop-sassy style and industry execs just love her figure—or rather, her figures. She makes them money. They make her records. But that's not enough for Juliette: She wants respect. She wants confirmation that she's a legitimate musician, not some sort of fad. She wants … exactly what Rayna has.

It'd seem that these two could find a way to work together, but the script won't have it. Rayna refuses to open Juliette's tour, feeling it's beneath her. Juliette tries to steal both the heart and talent of Rayna's longtime musical (and onetime sexual) partner, Deacon. The claws are out. And they're gonna stay out a good long while as this series takes to the road.

While critics have enjoyed Nashville, the program's soapy premise doesn't give us here at Plugged In much to get excited about. Rayna, Deacon and others have at least a vague sense of right and wrong. But the moral compass here is selective at best. Deacon might resist Juliette's business advances, but he can't resist her kiss. Rayna wants to keep her marriage vows, but viewers are pushed to root for her and Deacon to get back together. If a girl isn't stabbing somebody in the back, she's taking him to bed. So the threat of promiscuity and/or infidelity seems always just a commercial break away.

When it's not thinkin' about drinkin', country music tends to embrace old-fashioned values, at least in its songs. This show seems to want to prove that the theme is only a veneer. Traditional values here are often treated with the same nostalgic disdain that Rayna herself shoulders: The ethics of yesteryear were nice for their time … but the world's moved on. And TV's moved on, too.

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Nashville: 10-17-2012



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Connie Britton as Rayna Jaymes; Hayden Panettiere as Juliette Barnes; Clare Bowen as Scarlett O'Connor; Eric Close as Teddy Conrad; Charles Esten as Deacon Claybourne; Powers Boothe as Lamar Wyatt; Jonathan Jackson as Avery Barkley; Sam Palladio as Gunnar Scott; Robert Wisdom as Coleman Carlisle; JD Souther as Watty White






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Paul Asay

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