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)
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).
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.