The super-soapy drama didnt so much better rush the shark as partake in a frenzied expo of shark dressage that continues to this day
In October 2012, Taylor Swift abandoned her cowboy boots with fourth album Red. Country music required a new saviour: a bankable girl act to split a sea of indistinguishable bros. She didn’t arrive toting an acoustic guitar down Music Row, but via a glitzy drama identified Nashville that premiered that month.
And there used to be two of them. Caused by Thelma and Louise writer Callie Khouri, what looked like a show about the vicious rivalry between faded celebrity Rayna James( Connie Britton) and the ruthless, rising Juliette Barnes( Hayden Panettiere) was more complicated than that. The tirelessly compassionate Rayna actually persuasion Juliette through incessant disasters: shoplifting, rash decisions and her drug-addicted mother’s death in a murder-suicide pact.
Nashville was relentlessly soapy, relying on coincidences, adoration triangles, paternity suits and outbursts. But its first line had depth, investigating a town at the heart of US culture with a feminist lens on its music industry( both starrings and amateurs) and scathing insight into government fraud, 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 likewise sensitively tackled craving: to alcohol( Rayna’s lifelong flame Deacon Claybourne ), pills( Juliette and meek Scarlett O’Connor) and damaging rapports( literally everyone ). By season two, however, the present was losing its shit: memorable stages included the mayor’s mistress buying a barrel of pig’s blood to forge a failure and blackmail him.( She got a soapy comeuppance: DEATH .) The metropoli slant vanished. The villains 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 treading in at an inopportune moment to add some more expository exchange. There was so much dry stockholder chat that you could understand why so many hotshots behave badly. It had an scandalizing reliance on the” supernatural negro” trope: pitch-black personas who aid white-hot attributes’ self-discovery. And when all its songwriter references attained popularity, the bets dissolved.
And yet Nashville was wonderful. Daft, campy splendour, anchored by empathic contributes( such as Chris Carmack as lesbian singer Will Lexington) who softened its ridiculousness. There was no single shark-jump; this is only shark dressage, and beautiful to watch- until it wasn’t. To pinpoint exactly when Nashville fell off, you’ll require a lot of bolts and a hardy physique for trash TV. Was it when you mourned Jeff, the most difficult reference, falling to his death? Or when Rayna’s bratty daughter Maddie relentlessly prosecuted emancipation? For me, it came in season five, when Rayna croaked- at performer Connie Britton’s request!- following a car-crash-related coma( she’d already survived one during the opening season ). Cue a neverending situation where each persona adding goodbyes felt like a funeral for the show’s good sense. A sixth sequence starts next year, but the old Nashville can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because it’s dead !