The series premiere of "Nashville" delivered on many levels -- sharp writing, strong acting, compelling storylines, and venomous characters thrown in to keep things juicy -- leaving fans hungry for more of the first-rate country music soap opera.
Country queenRayna Jaymes, played beautifully by Connie Britton, is a veteran country performer suffering from a mid-life career crisis. After 21 years in the business, and a long list of accolades, the 40-year-old superstar is facing the ugly truths that the record company is ready to dump her, the music isn't charting, concerts aren't selling, and the loyalty of those around her is wavering.
Ms. Britton is nearly perfect, blending the right amount of drama, pain, likability, frustration, and honesty, bringing a quiet vulnerability and strength to the role. Her acting, along with the stellar writing of Callie Khouri, is the heart and soul of this show.
There is not enough colorful NC-17 language to adequately describe the creature that is Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere). She is nasty, conniving, and brings to mind the devilish glory days of "Dynasty" or "Dallas." And that's not necessarily a good thing.
Barnes slams Rayna Jaymes with insults like "My mom was one of your biggest fans," seduces Jaymes's former lover/lead guitarist like a trashy school girl on spring break, struts, pouts, has a big Emmy-consideration "moment" confronting her junkie mother, pops out of her dress, and warbles on stage like a vapid Barbie doll. She will easily divide the "I hate/love Juliette Barnes" online fan clubs.
Kiss this, "suit"!
When the record company suits inform Rayna that she has to make a choice to go on tour in the degrading position of Country Barbie's opening act, she delivers the best line in the episode: "You can kiss my decision as it's walking out the door."
More stinging dialogue from Jaymes, who is disgusted by the young babe, is pure gold: "Why do people listen to that adolescent crap?" and "Your little ingénue wouldn't even make it as my backup singer." You go, Rayna!
The real deal
Other highlights were scenes of Nashville's infamous Bluebird Cafe, shots of the Grand Ole Opry, the influence of legendary producer T. Bone Burnett, writer extraordinaire J.D. Souther (who plays Watty White), and wonderful music that adds authenticity to the program.
Other notable mentions are Rayna Jaymes's despicable father, Lamar Wyatt (Powers Boothe), who makes J.R. Ewing look sweet; Teddy (Eric Close) as Rayna's frustrated, whipped husband; and Clare Bowen as Scarlett, who not only has a now-you-hear-it, now-you-don't Southern accent, but accomplishes what musicians everywhere will want to drop kick her across a football field for -- effortlessly getting "discovered" her very first time stepping up to a microphone. So much for paying your dues!
"Nashville" was a thoroughly enjoyable, addictive night of television with potential for intriguing storylines and critical acclaim. If the writing stays solid and steers clear of too much soap opera pandering, this is going to be one fun, boot kickin' good time.