I have a confession – my favorite show on TV right now might be “Nashville.”
I know that there are cooler shows, there are funnier shows (and let’s face it, comedy is my wheelhouse), there are more Emmy-winning-er shows (because Jeff Daniels’ win for HBO’s “The Newsroom” is proof that the Emmys know everything about what’s good on TV, right?), but I just can’t get enough of it.
Unless you live in the Tennessee town GQ magazine calls “Nowville” (shameless plug), ABC’s country music drama is probably not the buzziest show on your radar. It’s a modest hit for the Alphabet network – when it premiered last year, its cast, led by Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere, had people talking, as well as the show’s decision to use all-new songs in every episode (a stark contrast from the karaoke sing-alongs on “Glee,” that’s for sure).
But the talk faded quickly when as the show took time to find it’s footing. But for me, I was hooked instantly. From the very first episode’s stellar duet between Scarlett and Gunnar that closed the first hour, I knew this show would be something to take note of. Some of the drama has been cheesy, sure – Juliette marrying the football player, anything Avery did before the mid-season break, the weird Dante saga, the boring Mayor Teddy/Mrs. Brad Paisley affair. But even when “Nashville” is at its worst, it’s always saved by the music (which might as well be the real Nashville’s city slogan). In fact, if you want to know what I’m talking about, skip to the bottom of this post, where I will provide a mini-playlist of “Nashville”‘s greatest hits. I highly recommend this action.
But if you want to hear about the most recent episodes, I’m happy to recap them here. Connie Britton is in top form in the first episode, even considering it requires her to be comatose for the entirety. When she wakes up as sees her family again – blink twice if you understand, Mrs. James – it’s pretty tear-inducing. Although I think Connie might have gotten her lips done in the off season. Do they look bigger to you? God she is beautiful.
Also beautiful as ever is Ms. Panetierre, who KILLS it the first two episodes. First, we see her frustrated at St. Rayna’s surge in popularity after her accident – how dare she!! – so she responds in a way that’s savvier than Juliette’s normal schemes, throwing a big tribute concert in front of the Parthenon. Then she attempts a photo-op by “visiting Rayna at the hospital” – something she never intended to do – but once she’s spotted by Maddie she’s forced to actually pay tribute to the sleeping superstar. Seeing the various emotions on Juliette’s face change in a matter of a single minute – her fake tears for the crowd, her bitchy attitude to her “people”, her awkwardness and her genuine concern towards Maddie – is something to behold. I gotta say, I never expected Hayden Panettiere would be this good, but she’s more than good. She’s perfect in this role.
But Deacon. Let’s talk about Deacon. There are two things I absolutely love about this show (besides the music, and again, we’ll get to that shortly): one is bitchy Juliette being bitchy and doing bitchy things. Love it. Everyone loves it. But the second one, something that is considerably less talked about, is Chip Esten’s performance as Deacon Claybourne. He’s the supportive, wise good guy, until he’s not – then he’s a tortured, smoldering asshole. Actually, he’s pretty tortured and smoldering even when he’s a good guy, too. Not since David Boreanaz has TV seen an actor play a Jekyll-and-Hyde role in which both parts require significant amounts of smoldering.
And Esten sure is good at it. He’s the type of actor that I forget is an actor – in fact, when I caught Chip in an “Office” rerun, I couldn’t help but yell “It’s Deacon Claybourne!” at my screen, because 1.) that’s what grow-ups always do and 2.) I CAN’T see him as someone else. He embodies the role perfectly – he looks like the real guys that have been thrown around Nashville two ways from Tuesday and lived to tell the tale. You see it in his eyes, his walk, and his scruffy non-beard.
In the new season, Deacon hasn’t had much to do other than be an asshole, so I’m looking forward to his relationship with Scarlett improving over the course of the next couple of weeks. Her telling him to “man up” was one of the coolest things she’s ever done on the show, by the way.
This season is different from the first in only a few small ways – they’ve added a character to be “Scarlett’s bestest friend from growing up,” who’s so far boring and has a terrible (I mean TERRIBLE) Southern accent, which I guess is just fine because Claire Bowen’s is equally awful. Pretty sure her and Gunnar are gonna do it, and then that will upset Scarlett. Whatever. At the end of episode 2 we were introduced to an apparent rival for Juliette, a reality TV show winner – sorry, runner-up – who stole Juliette’s top spot on iTunes and has the new head of the label cartoonishly seeing dollar signs every time he looks at her. I imagine this season Juliette, who spent all last season trying to shed her sparkly princess Taylor Swift image, will have a blowout with the label and potentially end up on Rayna’s new imprint, Highway 65. (By the way, shouldn’t it be Interstate 65, the main freeway that runs north-to-south in Nashville? Cause I think a Highway and an Interstate are two different things, Mrs. James.)
Also some stray thoughts:
-HAYDEN PANETTIERE WEEK 2 BOOB WATCH: Their still great, though not as nice as in the white concert dress from episode 1.
-I love Juliette and Avery’s friendship. Let’s be clear that I hope they keep it that way. He fills some of the role that Deacon had in her life last season, in that he checks her scheming and helps her out creatively. Let’s keep that going.
-Will is just a charmer, ain’t he? Even when he pulls off a dick move like ditching Rayna’s label, you just can’t hate the guy!
-I know Gunnar can be a bit boring, but that song was great. When he starts singing, yeah, I was successfully faked out too – I thought it was a weird song to sing about Scarlett.
***Okay now for the playlist! The music of “Nashville” is not exactly the country pop that has been flooding Top 40 radio lately – in fact, you won’t find a single song about a trunk or a hometown on this playlist or any track from the show. The songs are mostly classic, storytelling country/folk songs, with a little rock and pop mixed in. If you are new to “Nashville,” please check out these clips and you’ll get an idea of what I mean.
My 5 Favorite Nashville Songs (Minus “If I Didn’t Know Better,” which is posted above):
5. “At the End of the Day” - I cannot tell you how many times I have listened to this song. Wouldn’t be great if songs like this actually came on country radio in 2013??
4. “Ho Hey” – The closest thing “Nashville” has had to a viral hit has been this cover of the Lumineers’ “Ho Hey,” performed by Rayna’s young daughters Maddie and Daphne, aka Canadian singing sisters Lennon and Maisy Stella. They are talented and adorable, and there’s no question there will be more from them this season.
3. “When The Right One Comes Along” – There are a lot of songs you hear these days with lyrics that make no damn sense. This is not one of those songs. This song, by the duo The Striking Matches but performed by Scarlett and Gunnar on the show, is lyrically perfect.
2. “Nothing In This World Will Ever Break My Heart Again” - Juliette sings this one to close season 2. Try to not cry when you look at her face. Just try.
1. “No One Will Ever Love You” – Rayna and Deacon sing this one early in season 1. It perfectly sums up their relationship and it’s my favorite song from the show, hands down.
Note that these songs are not a wide selection of the songs, they are just my favorites. For further listening that’s not quite as depressing (I realize many of these are a little slow and sad), “Love Like Mine,” “Gun For a Mouth,” “Telescope,” and “Twist of Barbwire” are all catchy little ditties, too.