If you have watched more than two minutes of ABC in the past month, you have seen the promos for “Nashville.” But the incessant advertisements don’t tell the whole story. It’s the sophisticated portrait of both the country music scene and an often misrepresented region of the United States written with as much authenticity as Connie Britton’s former show, “Friday Night Lights.” Tonally, it’s perched halfway between FNL and “Dallas,” making for a soap opera that both soap fans and people who would never admit to watching a soap opera but have “The Good Wife” and “Mad Men” on Season Pass will enjoy. The show premieres on ABC Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 10/9c, but you can watch it on XfinityTV.com right now. Here are five reasons why you need to press play.
It’s About a Lot More than a Rivalry Between Two Singers: The marketing has highlighted the rivalry between Rayna (Connie Britton) and Juliette (Hayden Panettiere). It’s an important part of the show, with Rayna representing classic country and Juliette the new pop country. But it’s not “All About Eve.” Their struggles are more of a jumping off point for a deeper exploration of two multi-dimensional, flawed women. Rayna may be the talent who is unfairly being pushed to the sidelines because of her age, but she’s also a trust fund kid with a huge ego that often influences her decisions, and is dealing with a difficult marriage and a complicated relationship with her father. Juliette may be mean, but her hard-luck background makes her sympathetic. It’s a lot more interesting because it isn’t a cat fight or a case of good versus evil. The show’s creator Callie Khouri,was inspired by her real-life experiences in Nashville. “I always see the younger people coming up versus the established artists and the music changing,” Khouri says. “It’s always an interesting thing, especially for the women because there’s fewer huge female artists then there are male.”
Forget Love Triangles. This Show Has Love Asymmetrical Trapezoids: Juliette has a crush on Rayna’s songwriter Deacon (Charles Esten) who just might be the love of Rayna’s life. But she also has an eye on up and coming alternative country singer Avery (Jonathan Jackson), who is dating Scarlett (Claire Bowen), who finds herself drawn to Gunnar (Scott Palladio). There are enough tormented romances to populate four seasons and dozens of country albums. Says Jackson, “Where we’re starting from is that Avery, my character, and Scarlett, have been together for a long time. So it’s a pretty serious relationship they’re in and I think the fact that she sang that duet with Gunnar [is a big deal]. We’re going to see how that plays out in their relationship.”
It’s A Non-Stereotypical Representation of the South: On television, the South is usually portrayed as quirky, rural and old-fashioned, like on “Hart of Dixie.” Khouri aims for a more realistic portrayal of Nashville, focusing on the city’s politics as well as the music scene. Rayna’s husband is running for mayor at the behest of her powerful father. “I never felt any representation I had seen of Nashville really captured what was there and I’m just so dedicated to doing that because I have so much respect for the place and the people who make up that town,” Khouri says. “We use the word magic all the time, but it’s not hyperbole. There’s seven universities in Nashville. It’s an extremely sophisticated population, very well educated, very into all different kinds of art and culture, music so I just felt like this town specifically, a very rich tapestry from which to draw from.”
It Features Original Songs Written By the Biggest Names in Music: “Glee” has cover songs. “Smash” has original showtunes. “Nashville” ups the ante with new country and pop songs written by some of America’s most acclaimed musicians. Grammy Award winning producer T. Bone Burnett supervises the music, using his connections to get songs that, thanks to a deal with Big Machine Records, may become real-life hits. Jackson revealed that his character, Avery, will be singing two songs that were written by Elvis Costello. “T. Bone’s producing the songs, so it’s his vision and he’s great to work with. He really wants the singer to feel great about what’s happening. But just being in the room with him, the music is in the room with him. He has such a unique perspective on things and he’s really finding the musical soul of each character. Each character has a different musical expression.”
A Show That is Actually About People: In a season filled with high concept dramas about blackouts, rogue submarine crews, and modern day Sherlock Holmes, “Nashville” stands out for simply being a show about people’s lives. Granted, the lives of country stars and millionaires are hardly ordinary, but the show’s focus on character rather than plot separate it from the pack.
The series premiere of “Nashville” airs on Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 10/9c.