Nashville, on ABC (s1-4) / CMT (s5-6)
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I was a bit torn about whether to put this review under "soap operas" or "dramas." Certainly there are some shows I've called dramas that are just as soapish as this, maybe even more so. Still... for some reason, I just felt like filing this one under soaps. I should say it features some good acting and compelling storylines, as well as some very good music. And the show has some familiar stars, including Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere, Eric Close, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, and Judith Hoag. Most of the cast were unfamiliar to me before this, but I have enjoyed their work on this show well enough. And Lennon Stella went on to have a decent singing career after the show.
Britton plays Rayna James, a country singer whose career is beginning to decline. Panettiere plays Juliette Barnes, a crossover country-pop singer who is currently popular with the younger generation. They both belong to the same record label (I think it's called Edgehill/Republic Records), run by Marshall Evans, who wants Rayna to combine her underselling tour with Juliette's sold-out tour. But Rayna has no interest in becoming an opening act, particularly considering she doesn't like Juliette's music at all. Juliette, while basically seeming like a bad girl, clearly has some real problems, like a drug-addict mother, Jolene. And she wants to start becoming a more serious country artist, rather than just doing the pop stuff that made her famous, though everyone advises against this. Rayna also has an interest in changing her own sound, which Marshall is against. But eventually he relents, and even agrees to give Rayna her own imprint label, Highway 65, for which she can choose all the artists to sign. And she and Juliette do go on tour together, as well as singing a duet that becomes a big hit. They do continue to have some problems with each other, but eventually they seem to develop some respect for each other.
Meanwhile, I should say that Rayna basically hates her father, Lamar Wyatt, a powerful businessman who has suddenly convinced Rayna's husband, Teddy Conrad (Close), to run for mayor (even though Rayna and Teddy were both friends and supporters of another candidate, Coleman Carlisle). I should mention that Rayna's sister, Tandy Hampton (Hoag), works for their father. And there's a guitar player/songwriter named Deacon Claybourne, who's been in Rayna's band for many years. They were once romantically involved, before Rayna married Teddy. But she eventually gave up on Deacon because of his repeated problems with drugs, though he's been clean for thirteen years now. (Coleman is his sponsor in AA, or whatever.) Anyway, there are some problems in Rayna and Teddy's marriage, which are not helped by his running for mayor, or her going on tour. And while he often suspects she still has feelings for Deacon, there's also a woman named Peggy Kenter (Williams-Paisley), a former coworker of Teddy's with whom he shares a secret past business wrongdoing. On top of that there's the fact that she's apparently in love with him (even though she's also married); it doesn't seem like they've ever been romantically involved, but the possibility exists.
Meanwhile, Deacon's niece, Scarlett O'Connor, is a waitress at the Bluebird Cafe. But she also writes poetry. She has a singer/songwriter boyfriend, Avery Barkley. He's kind of a bad boy, though I feel like he's seen by those around him as more of a jerk than he is, and like... the show's writers don't even have a clear idea of what kind of person he is. He definitely has some jerkish tendencies, but he also usually seems to want to do the right thing, and despite his efforts, things always seem to turn out wrong. And there's another guy named Gunnar Scott, an aspiring musician who believes Scarlett's poems would make great songs. So they begin working together as a writing/performing team, which I guess makes Avery jealous (he suspects they'll get romantically involved). Also, there's a music producer named Watty White (an old friend of Rayna and Deacon) who hears Scarlett and Gunnar, and believes they could become very big. So their potential success also makes Avery jealous. But eventually he'll have some success of his own, though for reasons I won't get into, that leads to the end of his relationship with Scarlett, as well as with his band. But his success doesn't last, and he winds up as a roadie on Juliette's tour... though that could also lead to more opportunities for him. Meanwhile, Scarlett becomes the first artist that Rayna signs to Highway 65.
Anyway, Juliette gets Deacon to cowrite some songs with her; he's the first person to recognize that she can be more than she has been up til now. So they become close, in various ways. He also tries to help fix her problems with her mother. And... gosh, there are so many characters and so much going on in this show, I can't really keep it all straight. There's a guy named Bucky Dawes, who is Rayna's manager. And a guy named Glenn Goodman, who is Juliette's manager. Though honestly, I constantly get those two guys mixed up. Also I should mention that Rayna and Teddy have a couple of daughters, Maddie (Stella) and Daphne (who happen to be fans of Juliette). They're cute kids (Maddie's 13 and Daphne's 9, I believe); they're played by real life sisters whose parents are a country music duo. We occasionally get to hear the kids sing, and they're definitely good. Most of the time they have little to do with the show's plot, though there's something about Maddie that's hinted at, at the start of the series, and becomes a major issue at the end of the first season. Um, who else should I mention? There's a woman named Makena, who is Juliette's press agent and seems like the closest thing she has to a true friend. There's a guy named Dante who becomes Jolene's sober companion, but that becomes complicated. There's a musician and music producer named Liam McGuinnis, who begins working with Rayna on her new sound... but that becomes complicated. There's a woman named Hailey who worked with Scarlett and Gunnar for awhile, and maybe with some other artists. There's a guy named Will Lexington, who becomes Scarlett and Gunnar's neighbor and friend, but that becomes complicated. He's also a country artist, and I think he gets signed to Rayna's label. There's a veterinarian named Stacy who dates Deacon for awhile. And there probably various other characters I should mention, but... meh, it's all complicated and I guess I've mentioned everyone that I think really matters at all. For now.
Well, I watched I think the first 11 episodes of season 2, before missing an episode, which meant having to wait a week to catch it online, and by then I just couldn't drum up enough enthusiasm to bother. I struggled with my decision about quitting the series, because I do care about the characters, and I like the music, but I just can't manage to care that much about the story. Still, I'll mention some of the things that happened this season.
Let's see, Scarlett's friend Zoey moves to town. She eventually starts a relationship with Gunnar, who had been with Scarlett for awhile, but she had eventually broken up with him. Even so, Scarlett was upset to find out about Gunnar and Zoey dating (or at least she was upset that they'd been hiding their relationship from her). It's all kind of complicated. Edgehill gets a new CEO, Jeff Fordham, who clashes with Rayna more than Marshall ever did. So eventually Rayna decides to buy herself out of Edgehill, and start up Highway 65 as an independent label. Maddie continues to struggle with the shocking revelation from last season, and it's made more difficult when Teddy, who has been separated from Rayna for some time now, marries Peggy. Juliette gets a new rival, Layla Grant. Juliette also gets involved with a married man named Charlie Wentworth. Rayna gets involved with a singer named Luke Wheeler. Juliette and Avery become good friends, and in general this season the writers seem more interested in making him a good guy, which I appreciated. And Avery and Scarlett kind of get back together. And lots of other stuff happened that I don't feel like mentioning. Anyway, I'm sorry I won't see how everything turns out for everyone, but I guess it's not a big deal. I watch too much TV as it is....
The show moved from ABC to CMT.