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TV Review: Nashville – The Complete First Season

4 min read

Nashville first arrived on screens around the world in 2012 with its first season showing a promising start to the years TV breakthrough hopefuls. Since it began it has gained a huge following with not just fans of riveting drama but it has tapped into one of the biggest music markets in the world – Country music!

Nashville Complete Season 1Created by Academy Award winner Callie Khouri who had previous success with one of my personal all-time favourite films, Thelma and Louise back in the 90’s, the show follows the trials and tribulations of those caught up in the cut throat music industry, principally the world of country music in Nashville, Tennessee. The show takes us into the heart and soul of the famous Music City where fame hungry hopefuls try their hand at cracking the bigtime and industry icons rule the roost when it comes to the charts.

We are quickly introduced to country music’s most successful hitmaker Reyna James (played by Spin City and American Horror Story’s Connie Britton) who has hit a lull in her career and is beginning to wonder where to go next with her current record not hitting previous sales peaks. At the same time, Juliette Barnes (played by Heroes and Scream 4’s Hayden Panettiere), James’ sharp-tongued nemesis, is making her way up the charts and threatening to eclipse the country queen with her youthful, pop crossover popularity and ‘sex-sells’ image.

The performances of the cast, in particular the scenes that involve Britton and Panettiere, are spectacular, with both actresses portraying country music artists who, for different reasons, feel that they have a lot to prove to one another and compete for musical supremacy throughout the season. The conflict and rivalry of the two country stars creates the backbone of the whole series and they have been given a powerful and engaging script by screenwriter Khouri to work from throughout the first season of the show.

Completing the musical drama is a plethora of intriguing side stories including corrupt politicians, a publicity-driven celebrity wedding, family disputes, love affairs, love triangles and cheating partners attempting to hit the Nashville fame jackpot. These storylines allow the supporting cast to shine throughout the first season and really prepare us for what type of drama we can expect in future seasons.

While the rivalry between Rayna James and Juliette Barnes dominates the first season, the supporting cast help fuel Nashville with memorable performances. Charles Esten plays session and touring musician Deacon Claybourne, Rayna’s friend and former lover and Juliette’s love interest and who delivers a convincing performance of a man caught in between two of music’s most talked about stars – very different to his previous improvisational work on Who’s Line Is It Anyway?. Powers Booth plays Rayna’s vindictive father Lamar Wyatt and Eric Close is cast as Rayna’s out of work-turned-corrupt politician husband, Teddy Conrad. Australian beauty Clare Bowen also joins the cast and steals more than a few scenes during the first season as timid poet/singer-songwriter Scarlett O’Connor.

With the show depicting the lives of country music stars and hopefuls, the music is always going to be a fundamental clonk in the success of a show like this and it never once lets us down. During the series we are offered mature and traditional country pennings from Rayna through to more bubblegum-country hits from Juliette as well as being taken into the famous real-life Bluebird Café in Nashville for some memorable open mic sessions with the stars of the show.

Surrounded by the solid main cast ensemble that has been rounded up for the show are some familiar faces from music and film. Among them is Father of the Bride actress and wife of country music icon Brad Paisley, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Fugees hit-maker Wyclef Jean, Hostel’s Jay Hernandez and an icon of the music industry and recent Songwriter Hall of Fame inductee, J. D. Souther, a man who has written some of music’s most iconic hits for acts like Linda Ronstadt and The Eagles.

Character development is a strong clonk in the Nashville machine. While many new series fall by the wayside within the first run, this one has thankfully come forward as an obvious longstanding TV bright spark and we are kept engaged and on the edge of our seats from the first to the last episode as well as being given a sort of ‘fly on the wall’ view of the workings of the Nashville music scene. The first season of Nashville is more than enough to wet the whistle of any TV and music fan and will no doubt continue to thrive for years and seasons pass.