The wait is over. After months of promotional posters throughout New York, along with endless repetitions of the same commercials and sponsored ads on Facebook, “Nashville” has made its way to TV. But is all of the hype justified? Right now, the answer is muddled.
The storyline — an aspiring star in the country music scene trying to wedge out the current reigning-but-aging star — feels tired thanks to an abundance of clichés. “Nashville” looks and feels like the 2010 Hollywood film “Country Strong,” albeit with better execution.
In the pilot, queen of country music Rayna James (Connie Britton) is asked by her label to co–headline a tour with up-and-coming starlet Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) who is a more ruthless version of Taylor Swift. If Rayna refuses, her label will stop promoting her latest album and cancel her tour altogether.
Meanwhile, Juliette is intent on stealing Rayna’s producer Randy, not to mention her band leader and ex-lover, Deacon. At the same time, Rayna has issues with her powerful father and her passive-aggressive husband. Juliette has her own set of issues despite her callous attitude, including phone calls from her drug-addicted mother. A plethora of minor characters populate the show’s world, including Scarlett, an initially unremarkable waitress who unsurprisingly turns out to be an amazing singer in the episode’s final few minutes.
So far, “Nashville” has neither found its voice nor has it come off as a complete mess. Britton does a serviceable job portraying a struggling country legend while providing her own vocals. Those who know her only from “American Horror Story” will be surprised at this new side to her persona though her southern charm will be familiar to fans of “Friday Night Lights.”
Panettiere, on the other hand, seems to be trying too hard to play bad. Giving characters an evil glare in nearly every scene, she struggles at authentically conveying a mean-girl image. Unless her acting improves significantly over the next few episodes, she may prove to be the show’s most miscast star.
The other actors tend to fade into the background, as their importance to the main plot thus far is limited. Additionally, the cheap-looking greenscreen effects employed periodically feel unprofessional.
Overall, the “Nashville” pilot is a somewhat well-produced hour of drama and country music with decidedly mixed performances from its actors. Hopefully, the show will be able to weave together its storylines more skillfully over the next few episodes. Judging from this pilot, “Nashville” is far from reaching the levels of the network’s other hits like “Revenge” and “Once Upon a Time” that enjoyed strong starts. “Nashville” faces an uphill battle if it aspires to match those shows’ quality.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Oct. 11 print edition. Tobias Keunecke is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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