Hayden Panettiere's new show 'Nashville': Is it worth watching this fall?
Hayden Panettiere and Connie Britton star in 'Nashville' as two country music stars, one on the rise, one struggling to stay relevant.
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Meanwhile, Juliette sets her sights on Rayna's bandleader/torchbearer Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten, in a star-making turn) while Lamar himself conspires to get Teddy to run for mayor of Nashville in order to protect his own business interests. But that's - as they say - not all: Deacon's talented niece Scarlett O'Connor (Clare Bowen) and her boyfriend Avery Barkley (Jonathan Jackson) have their own dreams of stardom toiling away at the legendary Bluebird Cafe while another, Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio), loves her from afar. Ultimately, all their destines appear to be intertwined. So goes another day in Nashville.Skip to next paragraph
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What works: There's a prevailing sense of authenticity you rarely see from these kinds of shows, one that gives "Nashville" an unexpected intimacy and thoughtfulness. It all of course begins with Britton's Rayna, who's every bit the shining beacon of talent as advertised, but also something of a short-sighted diva. It's a bittersweet flaw that applies to not only her career but also her choice in men. (Juliette: "Sometimes I wish I could just do everything all over again." Deacon: "What would you change?" Juliette: "Nothing... everything." Deacon: "That makes two of us.") The show likewise tasks Panettiere's Juliette as the destructive vixen - Juliette: "Rayna's not the only woman in the world, you know." Deacon: "You're a girl." Juliette: "That, too." - but not without giving her some redemptive qualities as well.
It helps that the show fuels its story engines with everything from political intrigue - Teddy will have to run against family friend Coleman Carlisle (Robert Wisdom); to familial discord - "Yeah it's a funny thing about dad," Rayna notes to her sister Tandy (Judith Hoag). "You know, he's always there when he needs you."; to romantic foibles - "You be careful," Deacon warns Gunnar. "She's got the family curse: we always pick the one that will break your heart." The end result is a compelling mix of soap and tragedy, not to mention a beautiful showcase of country music, whether it's the prerequisite needle drops - everyone from John Conlee to Will Hoge - or some truly inspiring original performances. The closing moments in particular are just plain revelatory, as Watty White (J.D. Souther), the town's oracle of sorts, stumbles across stardom in the making.
What doesn't: Nothing in particular worth mentioning as each potential pitfall - the triteness of the dual love triangles, the inherent aggrandizing of fame and fortune, characters being too perfect or too unlikable, etc. - is ultimately sidestepped when all is said and done.
The bottom line: A welcome surprise.
Brian Ford Sullivan blogs at The Futon Critic.
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