Nashville Review: "Pilot/I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You)" (Episodes 1.01/1.02)
Mrs. Coach is back! Sure, Connie Britton starred in the first installment of American Horror Story, but the actress is back in her element, sort of. Britton’s Southern-accented Rayna Jaymes is a terrific character—and to be honest, she is the show. Nashville, while boasting Hayden Panettiere as a co-lead, only will work as far as Britton carries it.
And carry it she will.
Set in the country music world where a fading star, Rayna, is all of a sudden overshadowed by an oversexed teen starlet, Juliette Barnes (Panettiere), the show does its best to mix the fun music aspect of Glee and the wholesome drama of Friday Night Lights. There’s a slew of supporting characters who have been introduced throughout the pilot and “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)” that add a certain spice to the show. There’s a good amount of intrigue with the outstanding supporting cast—enough that will eventually blossom into great plots—but the first two episodes clearly belong to the dynamic between Rayna and Juliette.
The irresistible soap opera aspect of the show between two divas is even more interesting due to the fact that the two leads rarely cross paths. Their actions have a cause and effect relationship with one another, but it’s the internal struggles that shine through.
Rayna isn’t just a fading superstar who wants to hold onto fame; she’s the artist who wants to continue to make good music. Her personal life gets in the way, and she struggles to find a balance between resurrecting her career and running her family. However, all of it isn’t so clear cut. Her relationship with Deacon (Charles Esten), a former lover/co-songwriter and current band member, continues to cause fiery passion to spark up. Their relationship is a great way to show the roundness of Rayna’s character.
Juliette may be a sluttier version of Taylor Swift, but deep down she wants to be a respected musician. Except instead of making decisions that will help her shed her country-pop idol persona, she continues to try to seduce older men and run around in short cutoffs.
The most interesting secondary plot involves Rayna’s husband Teddy Conrad (Eric Close) being handpicked by his father-in-law to run for political office. The addition of politics into the mix was not something I expected out of a show about country singers, but it is a welcome ingredient. There is obviously something more to this whole set-up, both with Teddy’s past and the father-in-law’s motives.
It was a solid debut, perhaps the best of the season, and while it’s catered to a niche demographic, it shouldn’t be written off without giving it a try. Country music isn’t my personal preference, but well-written and superbly acted shows are. And that’s just what Nashville is.