The super-soapy drama didnt so much climb the shark as partake in a frenzied exhibition of shark dressage that continues to this day
In October 2012, Taylor Swift vacated her cowboy boots with fourth book Red. Country music involved a new saviour: a bankable girl act to split a sea of indistinguishable bros. She didn’t arrive carrying an acoustic guitar down Music Row, but via a glitzy drama named Nashville that premiered that month.
And there were two of them. Generated by Thelma and Louise writer Callie Khouri, what looked like a show about the inhuman antagonism between faded hotshot Rayna James( Connie Britton) and the ruthless, rising Juliette Barnes( Hayden Panettiere) was more complicated than that. The tirelessly compassionate Rayna actually coaxed Juliette through incessant crisis: shoplifting, rash decisions and her drug-addicted mother’s death in a murder-suicide pact.
Nashville was relentlessly soapy, relying on coincidences, affection triangles, paternity clothings and tantrums. But its first serial had depth, researching a town at the heart of US culture with a feminist lens on its music industry( both suns and amateurs) and scathing insight into government decay, via Rayna’s crooked mayor spouse. It felt like cable drama on system Tv and attracted appropriate heavyweights: Powers Boothe as Rayna’s dastardly father, Lamar Wyatt; The Wire’s Robert Wisdom as deputy mayor Coleman Carlisle. Plus, it had killer songs.
It also sensitively tackled addiction: to alcohol( Rayna’s lifelong flame Deacon Claybourne ), pills( Juliette and meek Scarlett O’Connor) and damaging ties-in( literally everyone ). By season two, nonetheless, the reveal was losing its shit: memorable incidents included the mayor’s mistress buying a pail of pig’s blood to fake a miscarriage and extort him.( She got a soapy comeuppance: DEATH .) The metropolitan angle faded. The scoundrels were pure panto: Rayna’s slimy label boss Jeff Fordham; conspiring ex-talent-show-star Layla Grant. Scenes lasted about 30 seconds, the drama provided by someone going in at an inopportune moment to provision some more expository exchange. There was so much dry stockholder schmoozes that you could understand why so many celebrities behave badly. It had an appalling trust on the” supernatural negro” trope: pitch-black reputations who aid white personas’ self-discovery. And when all its songwriter reputations attained renown, the stakes dissolved.
And hitherto Nashville was wonderful. Daft, campy brightnes, fastened by empathic guides( such as Chris Carmack as lesbian singer Will Lexington) who softened its ridiculousness. There was no single shark-jump; this was shark dressage, and beautiful to watch- until it wasn’t. To pinpoint exactly when Nashville fell off, you’ll need a lot of bolts and a hardy constitution for trash TV. Was it when you sorrowed Jeff, the most difficult reputation, falling to his death? Or when Rayna’s bratty daughter Maddie relentlessly sought release? For me, it came in season five, when Rayna died- at actor Connie Britton’s request!- following a car-crash-related coma( she’d already subsisted one in the opening season ). Cue a neverending vistum where each reference saying goodbyes felt like a funeral for the show’s good sense. A sixth series starts next year, but the age-old Nashville can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because it’s dead !