Deep breath. Aside from my weekly OMGing over The Vampire Diaries, it’s been a while since a television episode has left me breathless. After finishing the latest Nashville, I was torn between rewatching it, and blogging instantly so I could get as many thoughts down before they escaped. I chose the latter. I can always watch it again when I finish writing.
I’ve been watching, and loving, Nashville since the pilot. I read somewhere that it would make you forget SMASH and I’ll have to say, I’m embarrassed for those folks over at SMASH trying to pull off a musical show against such stellar competition. Heck, I’m embarrassed for the GLEEks because the musicians/actors on Nashville even play their own instruments!
Everyone loves Connie Britton in anything, so I’ll skip over her for now and talk about some of the bit players. I “heart” Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten), the sometime guitarist and former lover of our leading lady Rayna James (Britton). Deacon’s a tortured soul and Esten plays him like a tightly wound violin string. Deacon’s niece Scarlett (Clare Bowen), who has just broken up with her nere-do-well boyfriend, remarks in one episode that she had never realized how sad her uncle’s songs were. He’s also a former alcoholic, and Nashville does an honest job of portraying several characters in various stages of recovery. Esten also happens to look like an older, rugged Matt Bomer, so what’s not to love?
My second favorite character might be Scarlett, although it’s hard to choose with a cast like this. Clare Bowen, an Australian, does one heck of a Tennesee accent, plus she’s uber talented. She’s so dang good at the part you’d swear Scarlett was an actual person (seriously, the girl can SING) that country music was too stupid to discover. Scarlett’s naivete’ could be annoying played by a lesser actor, but Bowen manages to insert dignity and steel along with the sugar.
There’s the cutie-patootie sisters, Maisy and Lennon Stella, who play Rayna’s daughters. Look them up on youtube (Justin Bieber, who?). They’ve had one full song thus far, but it shows you Nashville‘s dedication to casting that even the child actors are bonified musicians.
Although Nashville is Rayna’s story, Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) is giving her a run for her money. I spend most of the time semi-loathing Juliette, and you’re kinda supposed to. . . she’s really annoying, but Panettiere does a nice of reminding us that Juliette is tragically alone. In an episode packed with staggering performance after performance, Juliette’s heart to heart with her mother was really powerful.
In the latest ep, “You Win Again,” Rayna is riding high from the success of her tour with Julliette (something they were forced to do together), while Juliette is fuming over being second fiddle. Rayna’s men problems, which are always challenging her, come at her full force in this episode. She finds out her new producer/guitarist, Liam McGinnis (Michiel Huisman, yep, he’s a real musician, too) has deceived her; husband Teddy (Eric Close) is suspicious of Rayna’s relationship with Liam, especially in light of the fact that their marriage is on the rocks big time. Seems Rayna has chemistry with just about all the men in her life BUT her husband. . . seriously, she’s more flirtatious with her manager than with Teddy. She and Deacon have been on the outs for a bit and things get really nasty between them when she stops by to check up on him. During that scene I thought, “This episode needs to be nominated for something,” but Nashville didn’t just rest on one spectacular scene. Several more happenings of great magnitude occur, including Scarlett (albeit unwittingly) exacting a fabulous revenge on the ex (Jonathan Jackson).
If you’re avoiding Nashville because it’s ostensibly about the country music scene, don’t. It’s about music, period. Oh, and families and complicated relationships with a little bit of politics thrown in. Scarlett and Gunnar’s (Sam Palladio, who happens to sound like John Mayer) music is the cool kind of country (bluesy) and Rayna’s new record is more rock ‘n’ roll than her previous ones. While GLEE manages to have a good cover or two each episode, Nashville features multiple stellar original tunes per ep.
If you’re not sold yet, remember that it stars Connie Britton. In a cast full of fabulous musicians, she’s convincing as a bonified star. While her voice doesn’t have the magic of Clare Bowen’s, she’s believable as a country music queen, but down-right pitch perfect in her role off-stage as a smart, driven woman trying to balance family and responsibility while remaining true to some essence of herself.