Fall TV First Impression: ABC's Nashville Sings

The broadcast networks have more than 20 shows debuting this fall, including a Revolution-ary drama from J.J. Abrams, a fresh take on the Green Arrow and a new incarnation of Sherlock Holmes. To help you prep for it all, TVLine is offering First Impressions based on the not-for-review pilots. Next up on our list…

THE SHOW | ABC’s Nashville (Wednesdays at 10/9c, premiering Oct. 10)

THE COMPETITION | CSI (CBS), American Horror Story (FX), Chicago Fire (new, NBC)

RELATED | Read Our First Impressions of ABC’s Last Resort, CBS’ Elementary, NBC’s Revolution, The CW’s Arrow and Fox’s The Mob Doctor

THE CAST | Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights), Hayden Panettiere (Heroes), Eric Close (Without a Trace), Powers Boothe (24), Charles Esten (Big Love), Sam Palladio (Episodes), Clare Bowen (Home and Away), Jonathan Jackson (General Hospital) and others.

THE SET-UP | Britton is Rayna Jaymes, a country music queen whose career is starting to stall. Enter Juliette Barnes (Panettiere), a pop-tarty chart-topper that Rayna’s label is hot for her to tour with. As Rayna navigates this professional fork in the road, husband Teddy (Close) is being groomed for a mayoral run by his powerful puppetmaster of a father-in-law (Boothe). Esten plays Rayna’s longtime bandleader/onetime beau, while Palladio, Bowen and Jackson flesh out the canvas as other would-be singers and songwriters.

THE FIRST IMPRESSION | Nashville was one of the first pilots I cued up months ago, so I gave it a replay this afternoon to remind myself just how enjoyable it is. It actually reminded me of Friday Night Lights in that I went into with modest expectations, not being naturally vested in the subject matter, yet came away a huge fan, here humming some of the tunes (“If I… didn’t know better….”) and anxious to see what’s next. Writer Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise) and director R.J. Cutler (The September Issue) have created a cozy but important world here, one seldom visited on TV yet ripe for drama. I’ve seen some TVLine commenters fret that the promos are painting Nashville as an OTT soap operatic affair, but the pilot is better than that — though, make no mistake, the ambitious Ms. Barnes gets her hooks into more than a couple fellas. The music, and there will be music, stars in a few scenes and merely drifts through others, helping color and form what portends to be this fall’s biggest crowd-pleaser.
    Among the cast, Britton is a perfect fit as Rayna, a woman of substance who is forced to question her value in “the new market.” Boothe is commanding-slash-fearsome as Rayna’s power player pop, while Panettiere’s role could afford to be written 5 percent less wicked. (That said, Juliette is the pint-sized force of nature she needs to be.) Supporting players are given little to do in the pilot, save for Bowen and Palladio as a Bluebird Cafe waitress/poet and aspiring musician who, as the hour draws to a close, team for a duet that promises to lead to bigger things (and have you lunging for iTunes).

RELATED | Nashville Team Talks Connie’s ‘Journey’ as a Singer, Hayden’s Hussy and Reba/Swift Comparisons

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | While not as ostentatious and prurient with its drama, Nashville should prove an able heir to relocated Revenge‘s Wednesday time slot. Also in its favor, NBC has swapped out a known Dick Wolf entity (SVU) for his unproven (and unremarkable) Chicago Fire. The questions are whether CSI, which got a shot in the arm last season with Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue, will cede any ground, and just how bloody buzzy the next chapter of Horror Story will be. In a perfect world, Nashville doesn’t wind up singing the blues.

Watch a video preview for Nashville, then vote in our poll below.

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60 Comments
  1. Karen says:

    It catches my interest so I’ll tune in.And of course I will also watch for Eric Close and Hayden Panettiere

  2. Sareeta says:

    I didn’t expect to be interested in this one, but the trailer was really good and I am looking forward to this series.

  3. Sam says:

    This is like a real review! Matt, I know this site isn’t meant to be a critical one, please judge more pilots like this, and a little less “fair and balanced.” I really want to know, in your opinion, which ones rock vs. which ones suck.

  4. Emily says:

    Smash burned me with a great pilot and an terrible, terrible season. I’ll wait until this show is well under way… then we’ll see.

  5. Scott says:

    You had me at “Powers Boothe” …

  6. A says:

    I feel like this might just be a TV version of Country Strong with Gwyneth Paltrow. I think i’ll see if the show lasts a while with good ratings and then i’ll check it out

  7. I Heart Chuck Bass (and Damon Salvatore) says:

    I have such high hopes for this show. I love both Connie and Hayden! And, anything with Jonathan Jackson has my attention.

  8. Jake says:

    The previews are terrible coming off as a tv version of country strong. Doesn’t make it a must see although your review sways me slightly

  9. nick1372 says:

    Nah. It’s just not my thing.

  10. Templar says:

    IMO America is on it’s way to going country for the next 5 years or so. Like the early 90’s [Garth, The Judds etc]. People are burned out on rap and hip hop and are turning back to real music and songs that tell a story. Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum, Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley are drawing in young people and Country Music festivals give you an all star lineup without the hassle of arena concerts. I’m in for Nashville.

    • Sam says:

      That is the most insane thing I have ever heard. What is your basis for this? There is not one country song in the top 10 of the Hot 100 currently. Acts like Drake, Adele, and John Mayer are selling the most records. 2Chainz is currently topping the iTunes album chart.

      Also, pop country is no more “real” than Kelly Clarkson or Lady Gaga. And not for nothing, but Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood only have a tangental relationship to country in the first place.

      • Templar says:

        The current top 40 albums include:
        2. Zac Brown Band
        16. Kenny Chesney
        18. Luke Bryan
        26. Carrie Underwood
        28. Eric Church
        37. Jason Aldeen
        38. Hank Williams Jr.
        Country fans still buy albums rather than singles. And, in case you missed it, I began my post with In My Opinion. You, of course, are entitled to yours.

    • adam s says:

      I take offense to you saying people are turning back to real music. Rap and hip hop are both real music. Just because you hear someone like nicki minaj spitting unintelligible nonsense on the radio doesnt mean that their aren’t more intelligent forms of the music. The radio is dumbed down.

      • Templar says:

        I’ll give you hip hop, but rap is not music. It’s bad rhyming to a drum beat.

        • Angela says:

          Rap is most certainly a style of music. Search out some classic rap artists and you’ll find out that it takes a lot more talent than you realize. It may not be your thing, and that’s fine, but it is music.

          • Templar says:

            Sorry, but I disagree. The drum is music but the spoken word is not singing. And the spoken word is the Rap part. Ergo, not music.

        • Sable says:

          I agree. The components of music are rhythm and melody. Rap has only one of these. It may be an art for, though not for me, but it is not music.

  11. JJ says:

    I’ve seen this pilot. It is one of the better offerings for us this fall. Definitely will grab you and it does NOT require you to be a country music fan, either.

  12. Nick says:

    I thought this was so stupid, then I saw the trailer & I knew I had to watch this

  13. Sam says:

    Dislike country music for the most part. However, the promos for this have got me interested in the characters so I can get around the music which I can live with because the actors are so talented. I suspect this will be a sleeper of a hit for ABC. The writing will make or break this. I hope it is a success and I plan on watching.

  14. Jules says:

    Love Eric Close and Jonathan Jackson so I’ll check it out.

  15. I wasn’t going to watch it, but after the trailers, I decided to give it a chance… Haven’t thought that Nashville will be facing Britton’s previous gig – American Horror Story.

  16. Krissy says:

    This is the one fall show I am really excited for. I love Connie Britton.

  17. rebecca says:

    I will watch anything Connie Britton does. Also doesn’t hurt that Eric Close is in it.

  18. Lori Mondel says:

    It reminds of my the movie Country Strong/

  19. Renee says:

    I’ll check out anything with Jonathan Jackson in it.

    • Sienna says:

      Me too. I had such a crush on him as a preteen. But as an adult, I really appreciate what a talented guy he truly is. (And yeah, I still think he’s cute.)

  20. AJ says:

    After hearing ‘Lennon and Maisy’ are joining the show too, I am EVEN more on board!

  21. I’m obviously one of the few who’s checking this out because I’m a country music fan. Plus I’ve been a fan of Hayden’s since “Remember the Titans,” and even though I’ve seen nothing that she’s been in, I’ve heard and read nothing but good things about Connie. I might even watch this instead of CSI and watch that On-Demand on the weekends. Can’t wait for October!

  22. Amanda says:

    The reason I’ll be watching: Connie Britton. Seriously, put that woman in anything and I’ll watch. LOVE her.

  23. Elyse says:

    i’m not a huge country music fan but i can’t wait for this show! looks awesome.

  24. Maria says:

    I’ll watch for Eric Close. Fell in love with him on Without a Trace.

  25. J says:

    I’ll give anything Connie Britton does at least a chance. Plus, as you said, FNL won me over despite me not being crazy about the subject matter, so here’s to another new thing to try! Looks great.

  26. Lorie says:

    I don’t care for Hayden, but I love Eric and Connie, so I’ll give it a shot.

  27. KBC says:

    I love Connie Britton in anything. I also love country music and Nashville, which is like my second home. I’ll be tuning in for sure.

  28. Sarah says:

    Interesting how the show is supposed to be about Connie Britton’s character yet to see the show art above, you would think it is all about Hayden’s character. Yes, while technically they are on the same plain and both are in the foreground, Hayden was given the center position and was placed in white while Connie was placed in black and almost fades to the back.
    I know this is supposed to be a “new star coming to take over from old star” story, so is this what the art work is about or is this more about who had the better PR people?

  29. Ruby says:

    You had me at Connie Britton….I am willing to a watch everything she does

  30. Jeff Dodge says:

    Does anyone know if the show’s going to have as much music in each episode as it does in Glee and Smash?

  31. Victor Field says:

    You had me at “Hayden Panettiere.” (Bonus: Powers “never not awesome” Boothe.) Tuning in if this gets bought for the UK…

  32. Pat says:

    Eric Close!!! I will watch just for him. Huge fan since his sexy character on Magnificent Seven. And Without a Trace. Hope they give him a meaty role to showcase his great talent and fantastic, expressive, bright blue eyes.

  33. Jessica says:

    Isn’t JD Souther in this show as well? I hear he’s great.

  34. shamangrrl says:

    Saw the premiere, and I’m on the fence. The performances are almost uniformly good, and really liked the song by the waitress. However, besides Rayna and the nice waitress, I found every other character to be either reprehensible, stupid or both.

    I’ll tune in for a few more episodes, but unless there’s some character diversity and turning down of the dumb, I won’t be able to follow through on this one. Which is a shame, because Connie Britton is (once again), amazing.

  35. K says:

    I watched the pilot already and I think it is awesome!

  36. cami says:

    Did you know that this was actually pitched to ABC in 2008 and that they just helped themselves to stealing the idea. What a shock? The actual person worked in Nashville for years as a video director. Makes sense that this person would create the idea for a show based in Nashville.

    Years were put into this project, and just like that ABC took it for its own. So if you’re loving it, you’re loving it for the real creator, Jim Hershleder.

  37. Angel says:

    I have watch the show since it was first aired….love, love, love. Looking forward to the show this fall. Hoping that nothing happened to Rhianna and Decon…please tell me that they didn’t write either of them out nor, anyone else from the cast.

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