The soap opera — the epic soap opera — is perhaps the most freeing genre currently on television. It wants to have its cake and eat it too. It wants the stories it’s telling to be larger than life — they want the literal game of thrones. Kings fighting against kings, empires against empires. But they also survive, need, beg, for the stories to they are telling to be grounded, subdued, and relatable. They live for the small moments.
And Nashville, the show, succeeds at both. All while making Nashville, the city, live up to its reputation for character, politics, and music. The pilot focuses on the music empire and our ostensible lead, the lovely Connie Britton, as Rayna James, an aging former country superstar who is struggling to sell out venues as Hayden Panettiere’s pop-country crossover Juliette Barnes is topping the charts.
A large ensemble is introduced, all possibly opening new avenues for the show to go down in, but it cleverly keeps its cast roped in and tied to Rayna in some way. These aren’t sparse, unrelated characters. These are daughters, husbands, ex-lovers and record producers. People intrinsically tied in her life. It makes the flow of the episode, and the introduction of the characters far simpler and enjoyable.
Created by Callie Khouri, whose previous credits include Thelma and Louise, and with strong performances from all the principles (well duh, it’s Mrs. Coach!), Nashville is an easy to recommend series. Definitely the strongest I’ve seen all year. The smart, sometimes messy script, is complemented by cinematography of a similar nature. R. J. Cutler’s direction has a command over the picture which will hopefully go forward, and certainly makes this the best looking ABC show since Lost ended. It’s wonderful, y’all.
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