As of this posting, ABC’s Nashville has been on for 14 episodes, and the most interesting thing about the program is not the plots of the series two stars. Sadly, Hayden Panettiere and Connie Britton’s characters have been woefully underdeveloped. The writers spend so much time moving them from one artificial, shallow drama after another, we’re not getting to really learn about the characters of Juliette and Rayna, and, in that sense, really care about them.
Any good show needs drama and conflict in order to help move the plot along. However, the rapid pace at which Rayna and Juliette pine after men; dump their man; stand by their man; marry; consider divorce; file for divorce; reconcile with those close to them; fight with those close to them; steal nail polish; choke on stage; then be fine; find comfort with their guitar player who they just fired an episode or two previous has me feeling like I am on the old Wabash Cannonball at Opryland USA.
Nope. Poor Rayna and Juliette have been given the corkscrew when it comes to building character depth that can get folks really invested in them vs. just the given situation they are in. Where the writers have been successful in this is the love triangle between Gunner, Scarlett and Avery.
These three characters fit the typical soap stock archetype of the good guy; the girl-next-door and the jerk, but even so their story is so much more interesting than that of Rayna, Juliette; Teddy and Deacon. It’s interesting because there is nothing extraneous that takes away from the basic story of Gunner loves Scarlett; Scarlett loves Avery; Avery loves himself. This simple story of star-crossed lovers gets you vested in the characters. Sure there are other things going on with them; namely trying to get a record deal, but the heart of their story hasn’t changed much from episode to episode. The overall arc of the story has remained the same and that allows you to get taken in by their story.
The series has made some improvements with Juliette. Her mom has gone from stock addict to being more a real person, and a few of their scenes together have been fantastic: Juliette and her mom talking about her impending marriage in the ‘Be Careful of the Stones You Throw’ (episode 109) where Jolene asks “and are you [happy]”; the scene where Jolene tells Juliette that she is in awe of her in ‘You Win Again’ (episode 111); Jolene telling Juliette that she’s sorry for ruining her 9th birthday party in ‘Dear Brother (episode 114). These are the kind of things that give us insight into who these folks are and get us, as the audience, closer to them.
Another improvement in the series is the friendship between Deacon and Juliette. Now that he’s just no longer a device for her to irritate Rayna, both are a little more human. When Juliette finds Deacon at his home after missing the “Wrong Song” celebration party is another simple scene but it says it a lot. Juliette line of “I know a dry drunk when I see one” and Deacon’s line of “It was out of tune” after Juliette picks up his smashed guitar are little gems of writing that create nuance to the characters that provide you a little bit more of a peek into who they are. Unfortunately, scenes like this soon give way to Juliette in another temper tantrum about Rayna or her mom or her career that seems more about her yelling and creating a scene vs. giving us more insight into her character.
Rayna, on the other hand, has just a become a hot mess for the writers. How could they have taken a character that started out so great and really futzed her up. She was a strong, put-together kind of woman, who was just beginning to face the mortality of her career with some still unresolved feelings and scars from her relationship with Deacon. Now, she’s become an overly self-pittying, meely-mouthed, mumbling, sputtering waffler who she can’t make up her mind about what she wants to do and can’t verbalize it either. Come on writers – give Britton something to work with! Rayna supposed to be a star; country music’s sweetheart. I can’t imagine that she’s gotten this far in her career and marriage by being as pliable as play-dough as well as being so indecisive. I really love watching Connie Britton, not only because she is beautiful like a mid-summer sunset but also because she’s a really good actress, but lately, I really can’t wait for her to get off-screen. And just what is it with her and her guitar players? Seriously, if Teddy is really interested in fixing their marriage, he should just learn how to play a Fender Stratocaster.
I am still addicted to Nashville, but that addiction now extends more to the location and music vs. the overall show itself. Having been to the city, I’m interested to see the establishing shot of the city to see if they are familiar to me and the music that comes out of the series is great. Whoever they are finding as the writers for the songs of the series are really doing an outstadning job. I’m even finding myself singing ‘Boys and Busses’ every now and again, which isn’t exactly lyrical genius, but it is catchy. To keep me hooked on the characters the way I am on the music, the Nashville script writers are going to have to work a lot harder.