“Nashville” is exactly what I want to be watching on a Friday night.

Nashville is a primetime soap, but it’s a prime time soap done well. At least I think it is, all I know is that I love it. Of the shows that have emerged from Glee’s success (I really did love Glee at one time), Nashville is the first one I’ve actually made an effort to watch. I heard Smash was the perfect hate watch show, and I don’t think I came across a way to watch Galavant legally in Australia. Since it’s been renewed for a second season, I’m hoping it’ll show up on either Netflix or Stan soon (preferably not Presto, I don’t need three streaming services). Anyway, Nashville is the sort of show that’s just there to be enjoyed, and it’s good enough that you don’t need to feel ashamed for watching it. There are affairs, music, a mayoral campaign AND Connie Britton, aka the most amazing woman who has ever lived.

Nashville has been on my Netflix queue ever since I got Netflix two months ago. Even though television critics I trust love it, I was always worried that I’d watch the first episode and not like it. Then I turned on the television, and Connie Britton was singing country music on stage (her character’s name is Rayna James), and was having to deal with the fact that her career had started to decline, and her label wanted her to open on a tour for their hot new thing Juliette Barnes, played by Hayden Panettierre. I will watch most things that are related to music and/or performing (I still haven’t seen Pitch Perfect 2, but if it had been released a week earlier I could have seen it on my birthday instead of Age of Ultron), and I love the drama that comes with showbusiness when I’m not directly involved with it.

Where Nashville succeeds and other hsows fail is that Juliette Barnes and Rayna James are fully formed characters. Barnes is the hot new country singer in Nashville, but she has a troubled past (this isn’t the second season of FNL, so she thankfully hasn’t murdered anyone), and she’s playing popular teeny bopper music rather than the music she’d like to make, which is the kind of music that Rayna was making at the start of her career with her songwriting partner/ex-lover/soulmate Deacon Claybourne. In the first few episodes, Juliette is obsessed with getting Deacon to play with her on tour, and they end up writing a song and falling into bed together as well. What emerges out of this strange phase of their relationship evolves into a real friendship, and I love it when men and women can just be friends.

That’s a little more difficult with Deacon and Rayna, because they were a couple for eleven years and also now Rayna’s married to another man. She can’t stand her father (I’d like to know a little more of what happened to make that relationship so strained), who has now put her husband up as his dummy candidate for Mayor of Nashville, running against Bunny Colvin from The Wire, who is also Deacon’s sponsor. Deacon had a substance abuse problem, and he and Rayna broke up when she put him into rehab. These storylines sound soapy and they are, but they’re executed so well that I’m just going to keep watching.

My one problem with Nashville is that the villains are too obvious. Rayna’s husband seems so unreasonable and his shady business dealings make it too easy for me to want her to run back to Deacon. Rayna’s father (I’ve learned some of the male character’s names, I promise) flat out tells his daughter and the audience that if his son-in-law has shady business dealings, they can be used to manipulate the future mayor. And Avery (his surname isn’t Markham, but that’s just what popped into my head) was always too obviously jealous of his girlfriend’s success that it’s no surprise he’s willing to sleep his way to the top.

Speaking of which, the jewel of this show is the beginning of Gunnar and Scarlett’s music career as songwriting partners. This storyline is here to show us what Rayna and Deacon were like twenty years ago, as two people have a connection through music that could lead to love. It’s soapy, it’s a fairytale and it’s great. I’ve only seen the first six episodes of Nashville, but this storyline has been a delight, as Scarlett realises that even though her boyfriend didn’t cheat on her to further his career, he considered it. She asks him to be supportive, but when she realises that she’s not as important to him as her ambition, she leaves. The women on this show aren’t pushovers, and that’s what matters. The music is pretty good.

Other thoughts:

  • I had no idea that Clare Bowen, who plays Scarlett, was Australian until I looked her up just before. She managed to launch a career in the States fairly quickly for an Australian actress. I noticed that she was from New South Wales and that therefore she must have been on Home and Away (people from Melbourne are on Neighbours). After I learned this partiuclar trivia it made much more sense that I thought Scarlett might have been Australian earlier on, her accent slipped a bit in the first few episodes.
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