Hands down, the show I was most excited for this season was Nashville. The city itself holds a special place in my heart: it's where Mr. Nomadreader traveled for the first time for our first anniversary Three years after that, it's where we opted to get married--at the Country Music Hall of Fame's Library.
The setting of Nashville wasn't the only draw, of course. The premise sounded fascinating: two dueling divas--one who might be passing her fame prime, while one is just beginning; politics; and music. I'm a fan of country music (although not necessarily what's marketed as country music on the radio). Most importantly though was the buzz. Jace Lacob, my favorite tv writer, declared it the best new show, and he admittedly hates country music.
How can this critically acclaimed show fall flat for me?
Pro and con: Acting. The acting is incredibly hit or miss. Hayden Paniettiere, whom I normally like, simply tries too hard. The argument could be made that her character is written that way, but whether its her character or her performance, it doesn't quite work for me. Still, Connie Britton is phenomenal, but the best talent is Charles Esten as Deacon Claybourne. Powers Boothe comes off as a soap opera villain, which might be the intention, but it detracts from the nuanced acting of Britton and Esten. Jonathan Jackson, who was excellent on General Hospital, also comes off as a soap opera villain, but confusingly. His character is utterly unlikable, and makes the otherwise lovely Clare Bowen's performance confounding. Ultimately, Britton and Esten are acting at a higher caliber than most of the cast. Perhaps most sadly, Eric Close, whom I adored on Without a Trace, hasn't convinced me he's a man Rayna would have married.
Pro: Nashville. I've mentioned my love for the city, but the show does manage to capture much of what I love about Nashville. From the faithfully reconstructed set for The Bluebird Cafe to the insider's look at the music business to the old money Southern politics, Nashville seems least like a soap opera when the music, business and political storylines intersect best.
Con: Reality. While related to the acting, I think the show's biggest problem is that few of the characters are convincingly real people. Aside from Rayna James and Deacon Claybourne, I don't believe any of the characters to be real. Some veer into soap opera caricatures, which can work (as it did on season one of Revenge.) Perhaps acting plays a role, but I'm inclined to believe Esten and Britton rise above their vanilla roles to make them strong characters while the rest of the cast needs more direction.
The verdict: Nashville disappointed me enough that I stopped recording it. As much as I adored some parts of the show, I never felt a sense of urgency to watch it. When I did watch, parts of each episode were boring. Ultimately, despite some strong storylines and performances, there was too much in Nashville I just didn't care about. The show can't seem to decide if it's a drama or a soap opera and thus fails at both.
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