Trashy, fun, bubblegum television – that’s what Nashville is, and it’s not sorry about it either.
Country music isn’t as understood here in Britain as it perhaps is in America, but Nashville brings the guitars, cowboy boots, hats and more to the screen, easily translating everything for international audiences. Nashville explores plenty of everyday issues – heartbreak, family, love, success, failure – all set to a backdrop of twanging guitars and sequined tops.
Established Queen of Country Rayna James (Connie Britton) isn’t selling records or tour tickets as fast as she used to, so her record label decides to pair her with teen country sensation Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere). The two are like chalk and cheese, and clash at every opportunity, all while trying to deal with conflicts aplenty in their personal lives.
Nashville‘s two protagonists are both characters you love, and sometimes love to hate.
Panetierre’s Juliette starts off as spoilt and annoying, but quickly gains depth and our sympathy, despite her sometimes brattish tendencies. Just when you think she’s learnt something new, she proves that she’s still just a girl in so many ways.
On the other hand, Britton’s Rayna is all confident adult woman, and she knows how to handle herself. She’s the consummate good girl, who becomes not so good as the series goes on, but her faults only make her human. And it’s easy to like Rayna, who is coping with a husband who’s just a bit too smooth, a father who she doesn’t have the best relationship with, and a career on the wane.
Behind Rayna and Juliette are a huge cast of secondary characters.
Deacon Clayborne (Charles Esten) is Rayna’s former flame and guitarist, who finds himself acting as Juliette’s confidant and sage. He provides an interesting conflict for Rayna and Juliette to navigate around, and has a compelling back story himself – one I’d like to see more of without Rayna and Juliette constantly fighting over him.
His niece, Scarlett O’Connor (Clare Bowen) and her writing partner Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio) are very talented, and very sweet together. Their story is a slow burn, and one I like, even though Scarlett can be a bit grating sometimes with her sweetness.
But then there are the back stories I really don’t care for. These include anything to do with Avery Barkley (Jonathan Jackson), Scarlet’s former boyfriend who’s a bit of a scumbag; Rayna’s husband Teddy Conrad (Eric Close), who’s a womaniser; and all the political manouverings that involve Teddy, one of Rayna’s friends, and her dad. All of these just distract from the main narrative of Nashville, are nothing to do with the music (apart from Avery’s, but did I mention he’s a scumbag?) and involve characters I find it really difficult to care about.
Nashville loses coherency when it starts to delve into its many, many side stories. The show is at its best when the concentration is on Rayna and Juliette, either as a pair or individually, and on the music. Granted, country may not be everyone’s thing, but I defy you to watch Nashville and not be pulled in by its soapy nature. You’ll be wanting to add a cowboy hat to your wardrobe before you know it.
•Nashville – season one is out on DVD on July 15.