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Things You Should be Watching: Nashville

by Zan Romanoff

September 9, 2013 | 2:22 pm

Either you know about Connie Britton's hair or you don't. If you do you're probably familiar, too, with her way around a soft southern accent, her insistence on playing female characters with depth and dimension, and her ability to bring even flat or soapy scripts to life; if you aren't, you will probably spend the first episode of Nashville being like but her hair, I don't, I can't, and then you'll come back around again and get to the important stuff. Connie Britton is reason enough to get me to watch almost anything. 

She's particularly radiant and well-cast in Nashville as country music star Rayna James, a woman coming to the end of a certain period in her career as bright young thing Juliette Barnes, played to perfection by Hayden Panetierre, is in her ascendancy. The two of them rattle around Nashville and the same set of gruff, scruffy, guitar playing men, eyeing one another uneasily, coming to truces and then pissing one another off again. It could be a classic catfight tale but Britton's insistence on playing Rayna with a certain level of security in herself-- and in her musical chops as much as her sex appeal-- makes it a compelling examination of generational friction instead. One of the show's best moments has Britton's on-screen daughters doing an a capella cover of one of Juliette's songs at a school talent show, recontentualizing its anonymous pop-country production into something sweetly personal, asking Rayna to smile and clap along. 

The music is the real star of Nashville: songs are comissioned specifically for the show, and everyone who plays a singer lays down the vocal tracks that play. The end of the season veered into dangerously soapy territory, covering sudden heart attacks and suicide attempts alongside shady political dealings, shoplifting, addiction, relapse, blackmail and a virginal footballer player being seduced, married, and then betrayed and divorced, but the music only got better and more beautiful, standing so strongly on its own that I'm sometimes surprised to remember that I've never heard Rayna and Juliette's duet, Wrong Song, on the actual radio. See if you can get all the way through I Will Fall without weeping just a little bit; go ahead, seriously, I'll wait. Nashville is by no means a perfect show but we're in the dog days of an Indian summer, and fall shows premiere next week; no reason not to curl up with something soapy and comforting between now and then, a little sweet iced tea to get you through until the days cool down and the nights are full of fresh television again. 

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