‘Nashville’ strikes disappointing note, sends mixed message

Oct. 22, 2012

April Wefler
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The time: Wednesday nights, 9 p.m. The location: Nashville, the home of country music – while sitting on the couch in your living room, or, in my case, my bed.

I saw many promos for this show throughout the summer and included it among “Once Upon a Time” and “Revenge” in the list of shows I was most looking forward to seeing. But I was disappointed.

Being a lover of both country music and drama shows, I wasn’t captivated by “Nashville” as much as I thought I would be. In fact, I watched it twice to make sure I was disappointed the first time like I thought and not just distracted.

The plot is the television version of “Country Strong,” a movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Leighton Meester. Similar to “Country Strong,” Rayna (Connie Britton) is a famous country singer who has seemed to reach her end. Her label tells her to open for Juliette (Hayden Pannettiere), a crossover teenybopper taking over the country scene, or the label won’t support her.

The good side of “Nashville” is that it appears to be a story that encompasses female empowerment. Rayna refuses to play for what she calls the company’s “little ingénue” when she’s a well-known and famous singer. However, there’s also another side to it: manipulation, of course, but also a kind of patriarchy.

Near the beginning of the episode, Rayna promises to open for her friend’s mayoral campaign event. But later in the show, her father, who she doesn’t get along with, convinces Rayna’s husband Teddy (Eric Close) to run for mayor.

Rayna and Teddy fight about her promise to the other candidate, and ultimately, Rayna chooses to stand by her husband’s side.

I was especially disappointed in this because with all her refusal to let the company control her, Rayna let her father and husband control her instead.

The show also shows the two sides of Juliette, a manipulative vixen who we find out has a druggie mother. The audience sees a vulnerable side of Juliette, but I couldn’t feel for her when she came on to Rayna’s old friend, Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten), and wanted to steal him from Rayna for her band leader.

However, there was one scene in the show that did manage to intrigue me. Deacon tells Rayna about Juliette’s offer, and the audience learns that Deacon and Rayna were once lovers. It made me curious to know what happened, if Rayna gave up Deacon for fame or because of her father.

“Nashville” also features a budding romance between Scarlett O’Connor (Clare Bowen), Deacon’s niece and an innocent waitress who likes to write poetry in her spare time, and Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio), an aspiring country singer.

Scarlett and Gunnar sang a beautiful duet toward the end of the show, which was a nice detour from my boredom of almost everything else.

I do have to give props to Britton for her wonderful portrayal of Rayna’s struggle between wanting to control her own life, both in her career and in her relationship, and wanting to hold on to her husband despite his knowing that he was her second choice.

On the one hand, this was only the pilot, and surely there is still drama to unfold, which means I’ll probably keep watching in hopes that the next episode will be more intriguing. But since the pilot disappointed me this much, I’m not too hopeful.