Over at The Daily Beast, you can read my latest feature, "Why Is No One Watching ABC’s Critically Acclaimed Drama Nashville?" in which I offer praise of ABC's Nashville, and ponder why more viewers aren't watching this fantastic drama.
The fall television season has been largely disappointing. Few new shows have captured the passion or imagination of viewers, and the war of comedies on the broadcast networks—with no less than three separate comedy blocks on Tuesday nights!—has turned out to be little more than a minor skirmish.
So it’s all the more disheartening that one of the few bright spots on the fall schedule, ABC’s Nashville—which was picked up for a full season earlier this week—seems to be suffering as much hardship as a heroine in a country song.
Despite overwhelming critical praise—a Metacritic score of 84, signifying “universal acclaim”—and glowing reviews, Nashville launched with an audience of 8.9 million viewers and a 2.8 rating among adults 18–49, numbers that dipped in subsequent weeks. (The Nov. 7 broadcast, however, showed an 11 percent uptick, which brought the show back to hovering around the 2.0 mark.)
The show, from Thelma & Louise writer Callie Khouri and starring Friday Night Lights’ Connie Britton and Heroes’ Hayden Panettiere, revolves around the often cutthroat musical and political scenes of Nashville, Tenn., centering on a troika of talented women during the ebb and flow of their country music careers. Britton’s Rayna James was the reigning queen of country, but she has discovered that consumers’ tastes have changed, and her stardom long ago stopped burning white-hot. Panettiere’s brash young upstart Juliette Barnes is the latest pop sensation, but she yearns for legitimacy and creative freedom. And then there’s Clare Bowen’s naive songwriter Scarlett O’Connor, who is plucked from obscurity when she duets one night with her fellow Bluebird Café waiter Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio).
Under the watchful eye of Khoury and her writing staff, Nashville is more than just a Glee clone in cowboy boots. The show skillfully explores the cost of living in the public eye, the lengths one has to go to in order to hold onto precarious financial success, the often incestuous Gordian knot of relationships in the country music capital, and the bitter pang of love lost. One subplot has Panettiere’s Juliette dealing with her junkie mother, a meth addict who careens from caterwauling to begging for forgiveness. Indeed, while Britton as always impresses with a lithe naturalism, Panettiere’s performance is surprisingly one of many reasons to watch. She infuses Juliette with a rare sympathetic streak despite her awful behavior, whether she’s trying to steal Rayna’s bandleader (and ex-boyfriend) Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten) or a bottle of nail polish from a pharmacy. Her caustic exterior and slutty ways belie a wounded soul in need of salvation.
Continue reading at The Daily Beast...