You don’t have to be a fan of country music to appreciate ABC’s “Nashville” starring Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere. The worlds of music, politics and Southern hospitality collide beautifully in what is arguably fall TV’s best new drama.
Britton plays aging* country singer Rayna James, who may be (have been) one of country’s biggest stars, but is also juggling kids, a husband who wasn’t her first choice and an overbearing, politically-aspiring father (Powers Boothe).
*By “aging,” we mean the character and the way she’s treated on the show. Connie Britton is awesome and not at all old.
If that weren’t enough, the terrible sales on her newest album have the record execs wanting her to open for Juliette Barnes (Panettiere), who is kind of the Bizarro Taylor Swift. She’s blonde, pretty and sings very pop-y country music — but she’s also conniving, mean as a snake and gives Anne Baxter’s Eve a run for her money.
Both women are so good in the roles that the core conflict is enough by itself to make this a watchable drama — particularly since one of the major issues is Juliette trying to steal away Rayna’s guitarist Deacon (Charles Esten), who just so happens to be Rayna’s first choice for a husband. That would be enough in and of itself. But the added storylines really flesh out a fascinating world.
Boothe, whom we’ve loved since “Tombstone” and of course “Deadwood,” is delicious as Rayna’s father who decides to run for mayor. Eric Close is solidl as Rayna’s house husband who is so deftly manipulated by Boothe into working with the campaign. And newcomers Clare Bowen and Sam Palladio are adorably sweet as aspiring musicians/songwriters.
It all comes together in superb fashion, plus the backdrop of the actual Nashville makes for a great setting. Much like how setting (and filming) a political drama in Chicago gives extra added backstory and nuance because of the city’s history with politics, setting (and filming) an entertainment business drama in Nashville gives a breathe of fresh air to a topic that has been done in both New York and Los Angeles.
“Nashville” premieres Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.