That was the war cry my best friend and I created all on our own upon visiting the musically inclined Tennessee city a few years back. Don’t ask me why, we are both huge dorks, and as you probably guessed; are both still single.
It just so happens that one of the new shows on ABC’s fall lineup, Nashville, takes place within the very same location I visited which is also lovingly referred to as, ‘Music City’. Knowing my strong penchant for country music – and more so the ladies who sing it – I was immediately drawn in by the first promo spot I viewed of the show this past summer.
However, before I launch twang first into the review of the show’s pilot episode, allow me to provide a brief recap of my trip to the city with the show of the same name.
For starters, Nashville is considered ‘Music City’ not just because all the other good nicknames were taken, but because of its heritage as being home to a diverse set of music icons, including that guy who loved his PB and bananas.
That’s right, Nashville wasn’t always the redneck recording capitol of the universe, but I won’t bore you with the details (I’ll let the rest of this blog do that). If you do want the full story, you can always click HERE for more details.
These days though, Nashville is indeed considered the home of country music, and it was the reason I packed up my best friend Jerry, beer money, and a couple of cowboys hats to see this mecca first hand. Actually, we went to watch a hockey game of all things, but figured why not hit two birds with one stone! Ironically, Jerry and I were the only ones walking around the city with cowboy hats on… the ENTIRE trip. (Hey, at least people remembered us.)
It goes without saying, but I will say it anyways, we had an absolute blast! Be it the Country Music Hall of Fame, Grand Ole Opry, the hockey games or the downtown honky-tonks, we did it all and literally shut the city down each night… at least the nights we can remember.
We even visited Nashville’s full-size replica of the world-renowned Greek Parthenon. Random AND geeky… SCORE!
Thus you will understand my unbridled excitement for the premiere of a show about a country music-centric city that I would move to in a heartbeat if California sank into the Pacific Ocean. (Which may happen sooner rather than later.)
*SPOILER ALERT: Some revelations about the pilot WILL be made, so if you prefer to remain totally surprised until your own personal viewing, now might be a good time to pause, watch the pilot, rinse, dry, repeat, then finish reading this review.
As with most TV series these days, without likable but perpetually flawed characters, the cancellation memos and pink slips can hit an executive’s desk before the first advertisement break convinces us how our life would be so much better with solar-powered cheese grater.
Connie Britton as “Rayna James”
While you might recognize Connie Britton from her more widely recognized supporting roles on shows like 24, American Horror Story, and Spin City; Nashville marks one of her more prominent roles as a ‘headliner’ (pun intended).
Physically and stylistically, the best way to describe the character of Rayna James would be to describe what would happen if Reba McEntyre and Faith Hill had a love child. (Forgive my sins in advance for saying it, but I wouldn’t be against foregoing a weekly paycheck to see that feat attempted live via a pay-per-view event.)
Personality wise, she is – minus some minor lapses into divaism – a vocally gifted down-home country girl who worked hard for all she has earned in life, and appreciates it more so than most newbies in the industry seem to.
Unfortunately for her, not everything stays hip forever, and her mainstream appeal is on the fall. To make matters more interesting, relationships with her apparently back-up-choice hubby and her well-to-do-daddy are also taking a turn for the negative. Her savior? Enter stage right: the twang-tween sensation…
Hayden Panettiere as “Juliette Barnes”
Just so we can get this out of the way, yes the actress that portrayed your favorite former Heroes cheerleader has an incredibly awesome first name. Also of note, it was a GUY’S name first. Now that I’ve cleared the air on that debate, let’s talk about Hayden Panettiere‘s character Juliette, shall we?
Ms. Barnes definitely comes across as a representation of the Taylor Swift demographic of pop-country music, if not Taylor Swift herself. The poppy crossover relationship-based songs we hear from Juliette in the pilot are eerily similar to the types of lyrics you might hear from Ms. Swift. While I don’t follow celebrity news – if you can call it that while keeping a straight face – all that much and I’m not one to gossip, from what I’ve heard, Taylor has definitely done her fair share of taste-testing with regards to the dating scene.
Unlike Taylor though, Juliette seems to have a tad more of an arrogant bad-ass streak to her that is more Madonna than country. In addition, it is also made clear that her main assets are on her chest versus in her chest. Which explains Rayna’s defiant refusal to play second fiddle on tour with the young go-getter, even if it means watching her own career fade into the Nashville sunset.
Despite her lack of social skills, Juliette has her own set of personal problems. While you don’t start opening the water works for her quite yet, there are moments of weakness that surface (enter the drug-addicted, money-seeking mother) that do tug at one of your heart strings…. but just one.
I think the best thing about Hayden’s character is I don’t feel as guilty drooling uncontrollably whenever she enters my HD screen as I did when she was portraying a 15-year old on Heroes. (Again, it might be too late for this, but please forgive my sins.)
Charles Esten as “Deacon Claybourne”
Oh Charles Esten, how I loved watching you on one of my favorite shows, Whose Line is it Anyway, where Drew Carey lovingly referred to you as “Chip” Esten. For those that never had the opportunity to see him on the often hilarious improve show, do yourself a favor and find those episodes.
“Chip” is a very funny, talented, and one might say, very handsome gentleman. I only bring that last one up since he seems to have a bit of a resemblance to yours truly, no?
He was also vocally gifted on Whose Line, so his casting in the role of Rayna’s lead band member makes perfect sense. In addition, with his five o’ clock shadow and tussled short hair, Deacon also comes across like a slightly more rough-around-the-edges Blake Shelton.
Deacon comes across as the genuinely loyal backup singer and lead guitarist who enjoys where he is at in life with the possible exception of getting the original songs he has written recorded at some point.
I was all ready to dub him the most likable character of the show until it is insinuated he may have given into the temptation of money and a former cheerleader (see above) by the end of the first episode. Which of itself makes things even more interesting as its also revealed that him and Rayna had a bit of a semi-serious fling in the not-too-distant past.
There are definitely some other intriguing characters and relationship dynamics worth mentioning, but I’ve probably rambled on long enough in a review for a non-sci-fi series.
If you detest country music, then this show is probably not something you will enjoy filling up precious Tivo space with. However, if you do enjoy a bit of twang in your music diet – be it to the classic stylings of George Strait or the new wave twang ala Carrie Underwood – I wholeheartedly recommend at least taking in the pilot.
Hell, after hearing Eli Young Band’s If it Breaks Your Heart and seeing the popular shots of Nashville (many of which I visited) during the opening scene, I was hooked like Tom Cruise in a couch factory. At least enough to watch stick with the series for a few more outings.
While I’m no music connoisseur, I’m even proud to admit I enjoyed the original music that has sounds like it has been created just for the show.
Despite the lack of aliens, ghosts, and intergalactic war, I found Nashville to be surprisingly entertaining. With the help of some intriguing plot-lines and above-average acting, the first episode delivered some strong character introductions and ‘stimulating’ relationship plot-lines (And yes I did mean that as a double entendre.)
Even the Outlaw is allowed to geek out on the occasional non-science-based serial drama here and there, right?
(Nashville airs Wednesday nights at 9pm on ABC)