Fans of Country Strong, Crazy Heart, Friday Night Lights and I Love You Beth Cooper rejoice! Nashville is here and it’s a battle of the hair for Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere. The new drama is one of the most-talked about series this season and for good reason. All the things you love about a good country singin’/beer-drinkin’/floozy-hating’ show are here… and the first episode starts off with a loud glittery bang. Of course, it’s been scrutinized for being nothing new, and so I’m diving deep into cliché history to rank the moments (from 1 to 10) that deserve an eye roll, and those that actually stand out. Let’s get started. Shall we?
Welcome to Nashville: Big Fancy Homes
We start off with a panoramic view of Nashville’s fancy green pastures and straight into the fancy-schmancy home of our beloved Tami Taylor Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton). Paintings on the walls, football on the big-screen, two little girls running around like adorable animals, kisses all around! How fun it is to set the scene of a drama — we all know s**t’s about to get cray, but for now things are nice. Really nice. Rayna’s husband, Teddy Conrad (Eric Close), who we learn is a stay at home dad (for now), even takes some time to teach his kids about the family’s assets. “We’re a different kind of rich, called ‘cash poor,'” he proudly says as they all hug and play in the narrow hallway. He is no coach Taylor (moment of silence, please). Not at all.
Rating: 5, because family life of a country star is quirky, Rayna doing her own hair in her room(?!?), lessons about money.
Bright Lights, Shiny Clothes
Connie hits the stage decked in so much glitter she looks like a Powerpuff Girl. Her voluptuous wavy locks bounce to the beat of her catchy tune as she gives a soft nod to her band leader, Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten). Bingo. We’ve got a new man one minute in and he seems like the perfect smoldering hunk for our dear Rayna. “Thank y’all!” she hollers to the crowd, and we fade to black.
Rating: 9, because sparkles, potential lover, a blessing on stage.
Backstage, a doll-like creature who goes by Scarlett O’Connor (Clare Bowen) comes running over to her uncle Deacon with her boyfriend Avery (Jonathan Jackson), and she genuinely praises the show and the goodness that is Rayna Jaymes. We quickly find out Scarlett works at the Bluebird, the town’s honky-tonk, and that she’s not a songwriter (she just writes poetry, okay). Scarlett is all doe-eyed and dying for a shot! But she can’t, because she’s scared. She only writes poetry! It’s not her time… yet.
Rating: 7.5, because innocent young girl who doesn’t know the force of her talent, clueless boyfriend, Deacon connection.
The Competition: A Pretty Young Sassy Thing
We’re introduced to Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere), the twentysomething country hit who’s bound to take Rayna’s hair by storm. She’s trouble, all right. More trouble than Leighton Meester in Country Strong, that’s for sure. All glittered up and popping out, Juliette makes some demands concerning testing her new fragrance and spirals into total diva mode when a phone call comes through from her mother. She’s asked to introduce herself to Rayna and to “be nice” but this sassy-act wouldn’t dare do such a thing. Juliette doesn’t know how to fake it, apparently, which could be detrimental in the country world. “I’m always nice,” she shoots back, puffing up her hair-sprayed bird’s nest. Walking over to Rayna’s dressing room, she sees Deacon and must, JUST MUST introduce herself by giving him intoxicating come-hither eyes. And he’s hooked. Lord help us. She’s on a mission to show everyone she’s not to be messed with, and she makes that very clear to Rayna when she says her mom used to listen to her music before she was even born. Burn.
Rating: 10, because a PYT with an attitude with a mission to seduce and take on a legend.
Trouble for Rayna
It has come to the country Queen’s attention that she may not still be, in fact, the Queen. Her new tour isn’t selling half as well as her last one and her music isn’t grabbing the attention of enough younger things. According to her managers, she is left with the option of collaborating with Juliette on a joint tour of sorts, or shutting down her current one. The words “co-headline” has her in a furry, and she really goes mental when she finds out she wouldn’t just be combining acts with Juliette, she would be opening for her! Blasphemy! Will she sell her soul to the minx or stand her ground as a class act? Welp, she has a few days to decide. The suspense, it’s killing us all!
Rayna confides in her husband about this mess and he thinks the whole thing would be GRAND. Go ahead, lie about liking Juliette, he insists, “You’ve lied about much worse!” He apologizes for letting the family down, not sure what that’s about yet, but says if worse comes to worse they can always borrow money from her dad. Now, this really gets her goat. Rayna would rather wait tables than be like her sister. Hell, she’d sell her damn soul on the street! They’re clearly on different pages, but ultimately she says she’s just going to have to figure something else out. With that, she runs to her producer Randy’s (Burgess Jenkins) house and asks if there’s a way to get her a new hit song. There, she bashes the young Juliette, only little does she know the vixen is wrapped in silk sheets like an oil painting on his bed, hearing every scorn-laced word. “It sounds like feral cats to me! Why do people keep pretending she’s good,” a fiery Rayna shouts. Game on.
Rating: 7, because the career problem, husband’s unsupportive nature, family resentment, sex.
Nashville has a wealthy, powerful local politician who seems to rule everyone and, of course, that man is Rayna’s father, Lamar Wyatt (Powers Boothe). Rayna comes running into an event that’s proclaiming “Lamar Wyatt Day.” (No, that is not a joke. Her dad is such a big deal, apparently, that there is no other way to convey this except for giving him his very own day!) Her sister Tandy (Judith Hoag) sits by his side, clearly the more-loved daughter. Ah, the family drama is a-brewin’.
Later, Lamar has a manipulative sit-down dinner with Teddy, where he suggests he run for mayor. What a fabulous idea! Teddy has no political background — according to Rayna he doesn’t even like politics! — but it’s a way for him to get back in the spotlight and take control of his family. Teddy is totally drinking the Kool-Aid his opposite-of-cash-poor father-in-law is feeding him. Lamar says something about destiny and fate and makes passive aggressive digs at Teddy’s submissive father/husband current status. Just days later Teddy makes the announcement he’ll be running, with Rayna next to him smiling widely at the crowd.
Rating: 6, because controlling father, easily convinced husband, supportive wife.
Every good country tale has its bar. You know, the one bar that exists in all the land, where everyone comes to drink and sing and stir drama and find love. For Nashville that bar is the Bluebird. And no surprise here, Deacon finds time to sing some of his sweet tunes on the mic amidst touring and being all famous and everything. His niece Scarlett waits tables and Oh! Wait! There’s Juliette! She may have a No. 1 hit song, but she can also casually sit back and listen to her biggest crush (apparently) strum the guitar like she’s got nothing else on the agenda. (By the way, Juliette cries REAL TEARS while watching him play so we know she’s not actually Satan.) After his mini-performance, Deacon finds Juliette standing up against his car, working her seduction magic. She asks him with heavily glossed lips to record a song with her, batting her brown eyes and assuring they could have “a lot of fun on the road.” It’s safe to assume she means sex.
Rating: 10, because the bar provides exactly what it always does: a thickening plot line and the best music.
The One That Got Away
Rating: 9, because the love that could have been and maybe, just maybe, still might be.
Rating: 5.5, because showing the young star acting her age, using sex as a manipulative tactic.
Back at the Bluebird, Scarlett’s new local kind-hearted guy friend, who also just so happens to be a wonderful musician, insists they sing her poems on stage. Something they apparently practiced, for hours, because they are damn good. Of course, Scarlett has never sang on a mic. She sings like no one could possibly be watching, because Juliette wasn’t just hanging out there or anything, and OF COURSE old-man legendary producer guy Watty White (J.D. Souther) is creepily sitting at the very back of the bar. And he hears something he likes. Oh he likes it, all right. He hears dollar bills and sold-out concerts. He quickly gets Rayna on speakerphone because she can so clearly hear every note that way. It looks like Scarlett’s going to have to get over her stage fright because it seems she’ll be joining the big leagues very very soon. OH, and I almost forgot, Juliette and Deacon are about to do IT. YES. Ugh, so very disappointed in him.
Rating: 9.5, because the sweetest voice is always heard from the underdog and there’s always always someone listening.
Thoughts on the premiere? Was it everything you dreamed it would be? Will you keep watching? Sound off in the comments below.
[Image Credit: Katherine Bomboy-Thorton/ABC/KATHERINE BOMBOY-THORNTON]
Follow Anna on Twitter @thebrandedgirl