Nashville Maddie Season 4 Problem

Nashville's Maddening Maddie Storyline: We Just Can't Anymore

In the heightened world that ABC’s Nashville has created over the past four seasons, I’m willing to buy quite a lot.

Country-crossing stadium tours thrown together at a moment’s notice? Sure. An A-list singer in huge sunglasses stalking her estranged husband from her mobility scooter at a public festival? Why not? Heck, I’ll even go along with the notion that Music City has a rabid pack of paparazzi ready to pop flashbulbs at the slightest whiff of controversy.

But I swear, by the price tag fluttering from Minnie Pearl’s sunhat, I cannot accept that Maddie — Maddie! — is the character on whom the ABC drama has hung a major plot that will last the rest of this season.

TVLine has it on good authority that Maddie’s quest to become emancipated from parents Rayna and Deacon will continue through the season finale. And while I do not begrudge the series wanting to give the talented Lennon Stella a chance to show her stuff, I certainly wish that opportunity wasn’t coming at the expense of screentime for other characters in whom the show’s fanbase is much more invested.

“But wait,” some will argue, “Maddie’s current plot directly involves Rayna and Deacon, the show’s central couple. And that means we’ll see more of the newlyweds together.” Yes, but Ray and Deke’s involvement in their daughter’s flight from home is akin to my involvement in renewing my driver’s license at the DMV: It’s tiring, it’s painful and we’d all rather be doing pretty much anything else.

And before anyone can quibble, hear this: I fully understand that Maddie’s self-involvement and ridiculous statements — remember when she said she envied Colt enlisting in the armed forces because he got to make his own decisions? — come with the teenage territory. I was an adolescent girl myself, once, and I wouldn’t wish on anyone the uncertainty, social anxiety and hormones that are hallmarks of the age.

I also wouldn’t use them to fill the better part of an hour-long TV drama about the country-music business.

There is hope: If you watched this week’s episode, you witnessed the too-brief scenes between Connie Britton’s Rayna and Hayden Panettiere’s Juliette. As the two women discussed keeping hold of the ones they love — with Juliette’s status as a new mom giving her a different take on a situation at which she might once have scoffed — my heart sang like Scarlett after a few tequila shots: THIS is the Nashville I know and love. This is the show whose albums I’ve downloaded, whose great moments (“Rayna, I’m done talkin’!” in the elevator immediately comes to mind) are such a joy to recall.

But those moments can’t happen when each episode is crowded with the passing dramas of minor characters like Frankie, Cash, Colt, Vita, Riff, Autumn… the list, which certainly includes Maddie, goes on. Here’s hoping that Nashville gets a fifth season, and that new showrunners Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick put the focus back where it belongs: on Rayna and Juliette’s life and love in the biz.