Nashville How to Fix New Showrunners

Nashville: New EPs Are Exactly What the So-Called Country Drama Needs

It’s like the Kenny Rogers song says: You’ve gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. So when the Powers That Yeehaw at ABC’s Nashville took stock of the country-music series’ slowly but steadily ebbing ratings over the past three seasons, they made a change: bringing in Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz as co-showrunners, who will take over for a departing Dee Johnson if the show is renewed.

Herskovitz and Zwick are an offbeat — though, in my opinion, inspired — choice for the Connie Britton-led series, which has struggled to nail down its identity since Season 1. Is Nashville a primetime soap where a child’s real parentage is kept secret for more than a decade and mistresses fake miscarriages using pig’s blood? Is it a character-driven drama in which people’s demons (alcoholism, abandonment, the hunger for fame) take up prime real estate in their relationships and ambitions? Is it a showcase for some really top-notch tunes from up-and-coming singer/songwriters?

I don’t have an answer to those questions, by the way. And judging by how the drama has chugged along for four seasons, skipping around the Venn diagram described above without settling in the sweet spot of overlap, I’m guessing Nashville doesn’t, either.

That’s where the new guys come in. Zwick and Herskovitz’s resume, which includes My So-Called Life, thirtysomething and Once and Again, is testament to their focus on emotional content relayed in relatable fashion. The action of a Herskovitz-Zwick storyline may not be huge — such as when My So-Called Life‘s Angela and Rayanne parse their broken friendship with glances and tears during a rehearsal for the school play — but chances are good it’ll be a gutpunch, nonetheless.

And the same way that thirtysomething used Michael and Elliot’s advertising agency to explore various aspects of their deep friendship, Herskovitz and Zwick can employ the record business, in all its passion and cruelty, as a backdrop for the greater issues in the lives of Rayna & Co. I, for one, am psyched to see the series’ talented leading quartet — Britton, Charles Esten, Hayden Panettiere and Jonathan Jackson — take on the challenge.

With any big transition, though, comes the inevitable housecleaning. And just in case H&Z are listening, here are a few ideas that might help reinvigorate the Music City drama:

* Thin the herd: Too many characters on the canvas means shortened storytelling time for all. Luke Wheeler hasn’t had anything compelling to do since he drove a truck through his wedding cake; once Layla wraps her vendetta against Juliette, it’s likely time for her to skedaddle outta town, too. The teens? Better used sparingly than given their own plot. On a related note: Please God, let the Nashville wardrobe department not have plans to fit Lennon Stella with a pregnancy pad anytime in the near future.

* Make Will something other than just gay: By having every one of Mr. Lexington’s storylines revolve around his character’s sexual identity, he’s become a token. Chris Carmack is capable of much more, and so is the show.

* Leave Rayna and Deacon alone!: Everyone invokes Britton’s Friday Night Lights role, Tami Taylor to Kyle Chandler’s Coach, as the elusive gold standard in the portrayal of a realistic, happy adult marriage. Conventional wisdom says that the Taylors are an outlier, that only heightened conflict between partners makes for good TV. But I’d argue that a not-on-the-precipice-of-divorce union has its entertainment value, too; Madam Secretary‘s Elizabeth and Henry McCord are a good, current example of a duo with ups and downs and a fiery love/respect for one another — absent drunken car accidents, cancer diagnoses and the like.

* Bring on the tunes: I admit I haven’t counted up minutes of screentime or anything, but doesn’t it seem like there’s less music on the show now than there was in Seasons 1 and 2? You’ve got a birdcage full of beautiful warblers there, Nashville, and we want you to set them free and let ’em sang.

What suggestions do you have for Nashville‘s new showrunners? Hit the comments to let us know!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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65 Comments
  1. LE says:

    I agree, when some shows loses it’s showrunner like (Community or Akwakward) for example it means that the shows could lose the unique voice behind it but in the case of Nashville, I think that the show would benefit a lot from the change.

  2. SC says:

    Totally agree, if the show is going to be renewed it needs something different for Season 5 to not be a total suckfest. This season has been terrible. The show has been weighed down for so long by extraneous characters – neither Luke nor Layla are really connected to the rest of the cast, they can go. Focus on the original 6 and Will. Send the kids back to the background. Also, yes, please, let Will have new storyline. He is more than just his sexuality.

  3. Larc says:

    100% agree with all those suggested steps. I hope Nashville gets renewed so they can be put in force.

  4. Jason says:

    I agree that they are a sound choice. Relatable human drama interwoven with the passion to make music. That’s what I want to see. I don’t agree about the kids though. All of their shows have explored the emotional lives of kids as well as adults. Music is such a generational thing. The passing of that torch is so important. And those girls are extremely talented.

  5. Amy says:

    Totally agree with all of this. This show is so schizophrenic. Definitely needs a return to the music-centric first season. Too many characters with ridiculous storylines. Waste of talent.

  6. Chris says:

    They also need to up Kyle Dean Massey to contract and bring Will’s boyfriend Kevin (I know they broke up but they will get back together later this season) back to the show, and not make them token characters too!

  7. MMD says:

    I totally think that bringing in Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick can only improve and stabilize Nashville. I adored thirtysomething as well as Once and Again. I also agree that they should “thin the herd” and leave Rayna and Deacon alone. Your example of the McCords on Madam Secretary is one of its selling points for me because you know that both are all in their marriage and can disagree without fearing that the other person is going to leave.

    Please, please no pregnancy pads for Stella Lennon! How about concentrating on the core relationships. This is a primetime show not a daytime soap. Let daytime have that drama, which it has perfected.

    Most importantly, keep the great music coming. There is so much talent on the show which includes lots of local Nashville musicians that I’m sure a lot of people not familiar with country music are now fans. I know I am.

    • leash10 says:

      Agree, agree, agree! Along with Coach & Tami, the McCords are one of my favorite married couples on television. I feel like they honor real married couples who navigate the ups and downs of life without threat of either leaving at the first sign of trouble. Rayna & Deacon can definitely do that as well without being boring.

      More music! These soundtracks are so great.

  8. Ian says:

    I HAVE always wanted it to be more character led drama than soap, so I hope thats what happens now.
    Yes, and bring back Kevin and make him and Will a unit.

  9. Lauren says:

    Oh man, I agree with every single point above. And I’ll add, please give Juliette a break and let her be happy for once!

  10. A fan of TV says:

    I wanted Luke gone from the first episode he showed his face in. Purely because i never for a second believed that down-to-earth Rayna could be legitimately happy with such a personal-brand-obsessed wanker. Can’t be easy, as an actor, to play a character no one wants around, because there’s nothing wrong with the actor playing him.

    I’d actually keep Layla around, but I don’t know how. And I agree completely on no teen pregnancy storylines for Maddie. Maybe an arc where she has to grow up by being shown the inside of a jail cell or sees how non-spoiled rich brats with every opportunity thrown at theor feet have to live.

  11. Boiler says:

    As much as I enjoy the show now you have hit the nail on the head with all your points, especially the number of characters. I do think Scarlett and Gunnar need to stay relevant to the story also.

  12. Norah says:

    YES. So excited for this. I love these characters, and I so miss the subtleties and nuances of season 1. (I also miss the joy and the humor.) And can we please have Rayna and Juliette in the same storyline again? Them on tour in S1 was the literal best. Those two actresses are gold together.

    Also, any word on what Callie Khouri’s role would be? I remember reading how she fought hard against ABC in the beginning to make it less soapy. (She clearly kept losing those battles.)

    • Phil says:

      Totally forgot to mention this – YES, PLEASE, put Rayna and Juliette back into each other’s regular orbit! Juliette leaving Rayna’s label (completely implausibly) was the worst decision because the show clicks when these two are together. It’s the premise we were initially sold, and the show has so rarely given that to us in three seasons. More Rayna/Juliette!

  13. Phil says:

    I second all of this, though I have really come to enjoy Luke Wheeler.
    However, BRING BACK THE GOOD MUSIC! I have not downloaded one single song this entire season. I can’t even remember one really good music moment. I have all three of the first albums and a bunch of the singles. Music used to be the showcase, but almost every performance gets clipped and there is no air for scenes to breathe, ever. I am totally in favor of giving these guys a full-season to really give this show a new ooomph – just let Rayna and Deacon be together.

  14. Alex says:

    Aubrey Peeples is an amazing actress and her voice is so good. I don’t remember much songs from the Nashville, but her “Tell me” is an instant classic (along with “Black Roses”), so for me she can stay.

  15. Megan Brown says:

    Kimberley, I cannot believe how ABSOLUTELY PERFECTLY u have nailed my sentiments exactly on how I see this show should be moving forward. Awesome, well done
    Kindly,
    Meg

  16. Donald says:

    Keep Layla and dump Scarlett. The most irritating character

  17. Chester says:

    I completely agree – Enough already. Leave Rayna and Deacon alone.

  18. Eric says:

    Has anyone ever realized that the reason this show has never actually found it’s real identity is BECAUSE of the revolving door of showrunners? I’m not a fan of changing showrunners. Why? Because the vision changes. The original EP had her vision, but ABC didn’t like it. They then replaced her with Dee Thompson, who had a different vision. Now we are replacing her with new EP’s, who will have a different vision. How can a show ever be consistent when there is so much changing of the behind the scenes? The vision of the show changes every time an EP is replaced and by doing that, the show changes tonally every single time. While I am glad they are coming on board — because I absolutely love their past work — I’m still frustrated by it. I can’t and never will get behind networks changing EP’s this much. It just messes up the show.

  19. MaryElizabeth says:

    Omg I totally agree. Only characters should be Rayna, Deavon, Avery, Juliette, Gunnar, Scarlett and Will. I want some frigging music. Forget Luke. When Deacon sings and plays his guitar I’m mesmerized. Jonathan Jackson’s portrayal of Avery is Emmy worthy. Again, bring on the music!!

  20. Jess says:

    This show has so much potential, but agree with all of your comments. If Maddie is pregnant that may be the final soapy straw. Rayna and Deacon could have so many interesting storylines about being back in a romantic relationship after 13 years. Also, Deacon has never been married before so that itself has plenty of latitude of interesting storylines. Of this show gets renewed, I hope it becomes more character driven and focuses on the core cast again- otherwise #freeconniebritton so she can lend her genius to a worthy character.

  21. Andrea says:

    I’ve always liked Juliette MUCH more than Rayna! Ms. Rayna James is nothing more than an adult spoiled brat. She had a very privileged upbringing, and we’re just supposed to LOOOVE her ’cause she’s Rayna James Whatever. Juliette actually has had a very difficult life, paid her dues, and is much more likeable, in my opinion. This may be blasphemous, but I can’t stand Deacon or Rayna. I’d rather the new writing team stop piling two tons of crap on Juliette.

    • Megan Brown says:

      No way, no no no no no Andrea, rewatch Season 1, Rayna did it all herself, not her father’s wealth. Rayna James IS Nashville, now please go away, nicely. U aren’t supposed to just love her, viewers just do love her. Her everything. She stays nice no matter what’s thrown at her but still has her emotions. Juliette could have learned from her mother, not repeated history. Scarlett broke free.

  22. Linda c Brown says:

    Please let Rhyanna and Deacon be happy. Her daughters need to quit being so bratty. It gets boring having the girls be so mean.

  23. K says:

    Please drop all the new characters surrounding Deacon’s business. I could care less about that boring guy and his daughter and now this new waitress.

  24. Steve Z says:

    I would miss Layla… her voice is gorgeous. But get rid of Luke. Honestly, I could lose Hayden and Jonathan. Not because I dislike the actors, just because the story is so played out.

  25. Liza says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with this article! This show has become a train wreck!! I used to look forward to it and watch it live, but now I catch it “on demand” when I get a chance. It has become so soapy and predictable! Let Rayna and Deacon be happy and work on their marriage and family. Let Juliette stop screwing up everything. She and Avery never had a chance! Put Gunnar and Scarlett together. Consider how the supporting cast can actually “support” the show. And finally, bring back more music!!

  26. Ken says:

    Thanks for a great article Kimberly! I agree with your assessment. Please give us few characters and a focus.
    Why is Will so tortured? It’s excruciating to watch and it has been going on season the first season cliffhanger. He has enough pain for a double album.

  27. Desiree says:

    I can’t argue with anything you said. It was a spot-on assessment of the show’s weaker aspects. I really love this show when it focuses on the music and the core group of (adult) characters, but unfortunately Hayden’s recent absence left a void that they decided to fill with bratty Maddie (nothing against the actress…but the stuff they give her to do is obnoxious. I really can’t stand her character, or how Rayna just lets her act like a little b-face with almost zero consequences.) I hope it gets renewed for another year so we can see what these new show runners can do.

  28. Summer says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Thanks for putting this out there! Nashville’s got lots of unrealized potential. The show’s got heart and soul, and it could really use a renewed focus on its core characters and on making music. So, bring back the music and focus on the character-driven drama of a strong core (Rayna, Deacon, Juliette, Avery, …. possibly also Scarlett, Gunnar, Will, Layla if they’re allowed to be more than what they are now) and let them change and grow as characters. Send the many many many others off into the sunset. Let this show be an opportunity to show that people need not be defined by their demons but can choose to grow and move on.
    And yes, leave Deacon and Rayna alone! Like the Taylors and the McCords, The Claybournes can be the stable heart of the story, dealing with ‘normal’ life challenges while being a rock to others. Strong, solid, happy couples are not boring. They are a reflection and an example of what married life can be, and that’s a slice of life we need to see more of on TV! It would be refreshing to see such a strong couple find ways to deal with the joys and sorrows, the hurdles and the challenges ahead of them. And with that I mean ‘normal’ challenges of running a business and raising teenage daughters (no need to make life more crazy than it already is).

  29. shar says:

    I only want to see Rayna and Deacon, Juliette and Avery, and Scarlett and Gunnar. I don’t care about the others.

  30. Ames says:

    I agree with all of the above points and above all, PLEASE get rid of Rayna’s children. I have no idea who thought it was a good idea to make them part of the story line, but it has absolutely run its course. They can stay on the show, but NOT as regulars. Get back to the music business and the city of Nashville as a whole. And it’s time for Will to do something other than moping.
    I really hope this isn’t the last season mainly because it would be a really awful way to go out.

  31. Jenny Penny says:

    In addition to many other good suggestions, I hope that Scarlett is brought back to be consistent with her personality in season 1.

  32. Kate says:

    I hope things will change now because season 4 has been a let down. The song, From Here on Out, has Deacon telling Rayna that he has changed and that he has been given a gift to have a family with Rayna and raise these girls up together. So what happens? Really? So your Nashville writers have imploded these amazing characters with ridiculous drama that contradicts everything that has gone before. So many great storylines could be created from the Deacon/Rayna Union. Bring Juliette back with Rayna. Have Deacon up on stage more with Rayna or anyone. We love Luke but what did you do to him? We love these characters. But you have destroyed them in season 4.

    • S says:

      I haven’t read any spoilers but this doesn’t sound good. I completely agree, though. If the writers let Rayna and Deacon’s relationship implode, the whole show will come crushing down. Please handle these characters with care. We have all grown to love them.

      • Megan Brown says:

        I nearly agree, more music, more Rayna/Deyna music, Rayna’s voice is growing, we need to hear more!! Luke has an awesome voice so the occasional part for him to sing but he’s not really needed to make the show anymore. In real life teenagers give parents cheek so real teenage dramas solved with sisters so they can be role models. Goodbye Cash. Now the Scunner thing is often just plain silly writing. They need to stop the silly stuff, e.g Gunner trying to set Scarlett up with guys. It was the WEDDING EPISODE. We needed to see Deyna sing and more happy Deyna not waste time on drivel. Will, that’s real life, he’s an awesome singer, that part needs to stay. Let’s now get to the soap, not drama, just plain soap = Javery. I love them as singers but their roles n acting are WAY WAY ova the top. Juliette has been to rehab, comes back and is still throwing tanties in the promo. I am sure Hayden is sick of that part. Happy Raynette singing. Layla has the most amazing voice and awesome actress, they need to let her belt out songs like the one she did for Jeff’s tribute, bring in more artists like Vita, her voice is… it just IS …..

  33. Ngleiter says:

    The characters have become very whining. The stories of each character has become boring to watch. Was one of my favorite shows but this year is awful. Bring on the music bring on some happiness

  34. Anna says:

    You need to stop with the young girls story lines. It’s an adult series. Definitely get some more music. An for Pete’s sake can you please sop making jonathon jackson such a cry baby wimp. We love him. He needs to get happier!! Scarlett and him are so whiny and depressed all the time. Focus on one story line at a time. Too many things going on with too many characters.

  35. Judy says:

    PLEASE leave Rayna & Deacon alone, let them be happy…show us what true love is about! We want more duets & writing songs together and let them be on stage more (I miss Rayna on stage)…I am pro Rayna & Deacon. More Rayna & Deacon duets, I love their chemistry. More Rayna & Juliette singing, more focus on the girls singing than being so mean, more music of Avery. Scarlett & Gunner and Will. It’s the music that bring these characters together…it’s an awesome cast, GREAT ACTORS and GREAT SINGERS! On show nights, bring in other current country stars with a once off appearance. Luke can go!!! Please keep the WOMAN CHARACTERS (Rayna & Julliette) STRONG, BOLD & SUCCESSFULL in what they do and stand for! Show us their love and tender side their romantic side (like in S1). They are the core of the show dealing with the music business and be successful in life!! Don’t mess with that! The queen of country must stay strong!!!

  36. angie says:

    I agree with this in every way. Focus more on your core characters Deacon/Rayna Avery/Juliette Scarlett/Gunner The Jaymes/Claybourne family dynamic. More Rayna/Juliette, Will but take the focus off his personal issues and more on his singing. Definitely skim the cast down so we can have more quality scenes rather than quantity. Take the show back to what it was like at the beginning more friendship such as Deacon and Juliette, much more music, more tours, keep the girls (Maddie and Daphne)singing more that talent needs to be seen more. If they are going to keep the other charcters, mainly Layla and Luke keep them in scenes w/the core characters stop giving them their own s/l, ITS NOT WORKING. AND YESSS THIS 100.000,000 TIMES PLEASE LEAVE RAYNA AND DEACON ALONE. I want to see a happy married couple on tv going thorough life together, there is nothing wrong with that. If any couple on this show can do that is that couple. Charles and Connie have the chemistry and the ability to play that amazingly. More More music please. I miss the singing writing and duos, especially Rayna and Deacon.

  37. EM says:

    The last two and a half years have been bad but I still stick with it every week. I hope the writers go back and watch season 1, see what made it great. I completely agree there are way too many characters on the show. It’s ok to have people come in and go out of the main characters lives. Nashville has really lost its way for a while now, I hope they can revitalize what was once a great show.

  38. I’ve watched the show since its inception and what is frustrating is that the writers can’t seem to keep track of their own characters in terms of the personality traits they’ve assigned them or the decisions the characters have made in prior episodes which seems to indicate they they have grown or moved on only to see the same behavior or reversals in subsequent episodes. I feel a little sorry for Connie Britton and Aubrey Peeples, whose characters seems to reverse course and fortune each episode in terms of what they want and need. The music has been consistently strong, and if the story lines were equally as solid and inspired to lead rather than follow tired episodic TV formulas and the writers toned down the soap opera angles a bit more in favor of a more realistic insider’s look at the Nashville music scene and the people who populate it, the show would be much more compelling and entertaining. It’s no fault of the cast, who are across the board, very talented (particularly the musicians) and in spite of the writing, fun to watch.

  39. I found the show because someone brought me one of the tunes that they wanted to cover, and I’ve stayed because the characters were fairly realistic, and some of the actors were incredibly talented.
    The first season had lots of great music, and the start of season 2 did, but it’s taken a serious back seat to the stories.
    Please, let Layla leave town when her arc wraps, leave Juliette on the road, and let the music come back. Chip is as good as most of the acts on the circuit, Claire has the best new voice in a long time, and if they get someone picking the music that’s still plugged in to the writers in town, everyone in the cast can have a song or two that they can be proud of.
    Don’t let this devolve into another Desperate Houswives.

  40. I strongly feel the new show runners should go back to the way it was in Season 1, with a lot of focus on the tunes! They add so much true emotion and feeling to a show that is otherwise just a glitzy soap opera. I cried at the end of the most recent Season 4 episode, Baby Come Home, and it was because of the great use of more than one song at the end. And the songs weren’t truncated to the degree that so many songs have been truncated this season. It’s is if the show runner wants to let people know what song is being performed, but without actually trusting that the audience can actually enjoy good music. And that’s a huge mistake. Nashville has had some phenomenal music, and that music gave the show its heart, which returned in Baby Come Home. Please let it stay that way!

    And even better… bring back T. Bone Burnett to run the music. He’s a genius. The music during the first season, when he was in charge, was really great.

  41. Sue says:

    I have been hooked on Nashville since it first aired but, have about watched my last episode. Tired of all the gay stuff, if he’s gay fine, but don’t make every show about it. The story line gets worse each episode. There was a time I wouldn’t miss a show, now it’s no big deal.

  42. CT says:

    If Nashville gets renewed for Season 5 new writers need to rebuild the show to get your fans back. Cut out Cash and her Dad’s roles, they are not needed and have turned the show into a Soap Opera with their interference in Deacon and Rayna’s lives. Maddie needs to be gone for awhile and then come back into the fold as a family member who really does need her families support.

    There is so much more to Will then being Gay, and him and Luke could do good together if the writers turn it around where it is about the music not the Gay Singer.

    Most importantly, we watch the show for Rayna and Deacon, let them be happy.

    The X’s are good singers and have history as a couple, they just got back together and the writers tore them apart!!

    Your fans want music, love, and some drama but a lot more happiness.

  43. Alexis says:

    Let Rayna & Deacon be happy and stop making Deacon so volatile!! They need to be happy and get rid of Cash, Freddy, and the rest of those minor characters that are so irritating and let Scarlett & Gunnar be a unit and let there be much more MUSIC!!! Enough of the soap opera!! I’m done otherwise!!!!

    • Megan Brown says:

      I agree with everything except I love Layla n her voice, there needs t b some tension n Layla brings it without a huge fuss n some class. She is also Highway 65 so she HAS to stay!!

    • Megan Brown says:

      Frankie not Freddie, but we can say Fred is Dead if he goes n if u like to call him Freddie😂😂😂

      • Judy says:

        I agree with you Megan. Leave Rayna & Deacon alone let them be happy! Family ups and downs between them is so part of real life, keep it that way. Let them manage Highway 65 together!!! Good good music will flow out of Highway 65 and those Newbies can come and go as it was with Markus Keen, that was great music (platinum status music)coming out of Highway 65. Rayna & Deacon, Juliette & Avery, Gunner & Scarlett they are Nashville with the girls & Will! The rivalry between Highway 65 and Wheelen Dealin must stay but only on the background All the others can go. Give us music, music, music. Rayna & Juliette shows, Rayna & Deacon shows with the girls. Gunner, Scarlett, Avery, Juliette shows. And Will. I like Will, Avery, Gunner & Scarlett’s friendship!! The Layla’s, Luke’s and other well known singers only as guests on the shows and while touring! More shows with guest apparences please!

  44. Kathy says:

    REALLY ?!?!?! THERE HAS TO BE A NEW SEASON 5 !!!! IT CERTAINLY CAN NOT END LIKE THAT ?!?!?!?!?! PLEASE COME BACK NASHVILLE !!!!