My Hulu Plus subscription is great for watching current shows, but at some point, and I reached it a few weeks ago, I ended up caught up to all of the shows that I actually wanted to watch. This left me with either stopping my watching of television or finding a new show that I might want to continue to watch. I tried a few, like Hart of Dixie, Killer Women and Salem. But all three of those reminded me of why television is usually the worst place to find quality programming. But then my recommendation queue kept showing me Nashville, and being someone who does like country music, I finally gave it a go.
First off, my recommendation after watching through one and a half seasons of the show is that if you like/love country music, then this show is definitely what you want to watch. The drama, which I’ll get into in a moment here, can sometimes be great, but at other times can become quite generic. But the stars of the show are definitely what make it worth your while. While I was not a previous fan of Connie Britton, her turn as the star of this show is definitely worth the watch. And then there’s Hayden Panettere, who was best known before this as the cheerleader in NBC’s Heroes (“save the cheerleader, save the world!”). In Nashville, she plays a pop sensation who is hitting the end of her 15 minutes of fame, yet is trying desperately to reinvent herself before the audience turns against her. Chocked full of Britney Spears/Lindsey Lohan types of adventures, her character becomes one of those “bad girl” types that you learn to love by proximity alone, and after awhile she becomes quite endearing to the audience so that you cheer for her, even though she’s done some pretty crappy things to other people during her run on the show. Britton’s role as the matriarch of Nashville’s country music is played quite well, and I’ve yet to feel a single scene involving her character has been any waste of time on screen.
Which brings me to the most important part of the show, and that’s the music. Like I said, I’m someone who really likes country music, but more of the contemporary stuff (Shania Twain, Taylor Swift, etc.) than the old die hard country music personalities of old. But what I’ve discovered is that the show is tempered enough to allow pretty much any kind of fan of music to really appreciate what they’re doing with this show.
Some of the music that they showcase in the show is all brand new, designed for the show itself, and some of it is freaking awesome. Some of it is somewhat generic, which you would think should be expected as this is a show that includes a LOT of new music that it is trying to pretend is a major part of country music popularity. This is definitely one of the high points of the show, but strange as it may seem to be that I’m saying this, it’s also one of its limitations. Let me explain.
Several of the characters in the show are up and coming musicians and songwriters, so they are often shown in the process of creating their magic that will later become big sensations. What that has done has created a quasi-fake Nashville that sometimes gets really annoying to watch. Imagine that you just drove into Nashville for the first time, and you’re a budding musician. You’d expect to go through a lot of angst and hard work and then hope that eventually it would just pay off because you stuck it out for years and sacrificed so much. In the show, some kid shows up in town, turns out to be the greatest sensation since Michael Jackson, and is immediately becoming a big star. NOTHING that person writes or sings is bad. It’s all freaking awesome and no matter what he or she performs, it’s the best of his or her game ever.
And that’s kind of what annoys me about the show. Every character on the show is at the top of his or her game 24/7. Even when they’re struggling with personal life stuff, they still churn out stuff that a seasoned musician might take a decade to try to figure out, but they do it in a weekend, or a late night session. Sure, it’s all supposed to be fiction and fantasy, but sometimes it starts to get on my nerves that EVERYONE that lives in Nashville is just another Shania Twain waiting to be discovered. I have yet to see a single performance by someone who wasn’t ready to rock the house if he or she was actually producing n the real world at that particular moment. They play a lot of bars and stuff, which would tell me that at some point there should be a bad band playing somewhere, or a twanging guitarist whose guitar strings break at a crucial part during a solo just once.
It kind of reminds me of the movie The Commitments, which if you haven’t seen, I highly recommend it. The movie is about a bunch of Irish misfits who create a rocking music group that wants to sing blues rock the house. In the beginning, their music is HORRIBLE. They are on stage rocking, but they’re music is so far from being good. Yet, as the movie moves on, they become better, and by the time they do their last performance, they REALLY rock the house, and they’re good. But you saw that transition from horrible to freaking awesome, and you lived it with them. I so want to see that in Nashville because then it would at least show me that these people might be real, not just be some fantasy of what country music wants us to believe it is.
The other problem the show has is what I like to call the Television Friends/Will&Grace Factor, which basically refers to the shows Friends and Will & Grace when they became so famous that they manufactured reasons why famous people should be on the show. Nashville has kind of the opposite problem of those shows, in that when it brings someone “famous” into the show, it’s usually someone not famous enough that they belong on a show that is showcasing the matriarch of country music. One example of what I mean is that they brought in Kelly Clarkson, and two characters were going to write a song for her. Meanwhile, there’s actually a story line going on about a music game show second place winner who is now signed to the label (which when they introduced that character, they were essentially using Kelly Clarkson as a pretty good model for what they were doing). As the REAL Kelly Clarkson showed up in that episode, all I could think to myself was “couldn’t they actually get a real country music star to do that walk-on part instead?” Sure, I like Kelly Clarkson, but that moment in the show called for someone with a lot richer history in country music than someone who just made it as a pop star. It was one of those moments that reminded me that I was watching a television show, and they effectively brought me back to reality when they were trying to do the opposite.
All in all, I think it’s a great show, and I’m still watching it through the last of the second season (the third season starts after summer is over). But those are my thoughts, and to quote a famous, former country music group that is talked around on this show but rarely mentioned: I’m not ready to make nice.