So, I’ve been looking forward to Nashville ever since I first saw Connie Britton’s face attached to it. When I found out that T. Bone Burnett was running the music, and that Callie Khouri (she of Thelma & Louise fame) was running the show, things just seemed to get brighter and brighter. The production values are high; ABC seems to be wholly behind it; GOD THE MUSIC, I LOVE IT, IT IS CONSTANT ROTATION IN MY SPOTIFY.
But it’s also super soapy, following in a long tradition of primetime, Southern-based soaps (think Dallas) and, as someone suggested in my Twitter feed today, regressive, at least in terms of feminist sensibilities. Or at least a “step down” for Connie Britton. Or is it?
I’ve asked a bunch of people who a.) love Nashville; b.) write on the internet in some way; and c.) come from some sort of background that is not identical to mine to chime in on the specific appeal of the show. We’ll see where this goes.
I kinda can’t stand Hayden Panetierre, but this show has somehow endeared her to me in some weird way. What do we do with that?
LET’S GO! LIKE A TELESCOOOOOOOPE!
Jia: I have the same reaction to Hayden Panetierre (or, more specifically, her acting). But I too have come around to her, in this part, on this show. First, I think there’s a sort of January Jones as Betty Draper thing going on: a bad actress playing a bad actress works well. In Ms. Panetierre’s case, an actress who comes off a little too cutely insincere/self-conscious at best (and wholly narcissistic and hate-able at worst) can play her country-music analogue pretty seamlessly.
Also, re: the idea of this show being “regressive,” of course it’s not Louie or Portlandia or something that struck people as formally or structurally new. But I like the straightforwardness of a good soapy drama, much prefer it to the fake “progressive” veneer of a show like Modern Family. (And some soapy shows–like my current kick, the O.C.–make room for some fourth-wall innovation, etc, anyway.)
AHP: Yes yes yes — I love it when people get on the “Betty Draper is a bad actress at life – that’s why January Jones is so perfect” train. I mean, Hayden even kinda looks like January Jones, and they both seem to be straight off of the “casting couch,” if you’re putting up what I’m putting down. I think what resonates with me about Panetierre = the fact that she’s constantly putting up an image to cover up for her tragic/classed background, and what we’ve seen in the last few episodes is the puncturing of that image — the vulnerability and fragility that resides beneath all star images. In some ways, Nashville is, at least in part, a meditation on image: what Rayna and Juliette culturally/socially “mean” and how that fits (or doesn’t) with their “real life” actions, desires, pasts, etc.
Jia: PS, the rumor that Hayden Panetierre is a Hollywood escort–have you read that/written about that? Her and Amanda Bynes both? I read it once and I thought, “Oh, sure,” because that is very much how she comes off, casting couch-esque, and it’s interesting to think about how there’s nothing specific to telegraph that except (I would like to think this is what shapes most of my judgment about her) a lack of nuanced talent. But honestly, she’s pretty good on this show! Or at least, this character is a pretty decent absorption for the things about her that normally irritate people. (AHP: And she’s a much better singer than Connie Britton, right?!?) (Jia: YES. Which is unfortunate, I wish they were equal musically for the show’s sake. Also, Hayden has some hilarious musical efforts in her past. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=rsZasAQJ06I song she did for “Cinderella III: A Twist In Time” omg and also that awful “Stars Are Blind” esque song “Wake Up Call” ) (AHP: Although I will say that my favorite song of hers is the one with Deacon — “Under Mine.” The other stuff is too Carrie Underwood.)
I agree with you completely on the image thing. It’s interesting that Juliette and Rayna are both trying to reach for the middle in a way: both of them trying to shed their pasts at opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum in order to achieve mainstream stardom and not be hassled by the accusation of either end (the “Lana del Rey, son of a Jersey millionaire” thing or the “Britney Spears, trailer trash forever” thing).
Alaina: I am probably going to be watching this show after everyone else have given up on it (whether that is in one season or five) because that’s how much I love Tami Taylor. But a couple things are bothering me. One, I keep struggling with the Rayna/Teddy have no money plotline. I TOTALLY buy her mid-career/middle-aged slump, but if she really was a Faith Hill or Reba like she is supposed to be, wouldn’t she have more money? One bad deal and they don’t have any liquid assets?
The bigger thing that’s bothering me is Rayna’s inaction. Both she and Juliet are struggling, but I am actually finding Juliet more enjoyable to watch (Hayden, what have you done to me) because her impulsive decisions – bouncing from one thing/person to another to try to make herself feel better is at least active.
But, now that I write this, I wonder if it’s a reflection of what hinders you at different ages. In your 20’s, you can fall prey to bad decisions – in your 40’s, it’s much more likely to be in-decision that holds you back.
AHP: Okay, yes: it’s one thing if you have some money and then your husband is a real estate dufus that you’d still be getting mad residuals every time country radio played your version of Faith Hill’s “Breathe” (btw, I hate late Faith Hill, which is part of the reason I’m having problems reconciling Rayna James as a character with my unadulterated love for Connie Britton). Also, side note, but I love the suggestion that Powers Boothe (Rayna’s dad) is acting in a completely different (far more melodramatic) show than the rest of the cast. It’s perfect. (Jane: I want to talk more about Boothe! That delivery! that growl. I have to admit here that I never made it past a few episodes of FNL, but I made it to the end of Deadwood, and while I have few associations between Tami and Rayna, I do have very sharp Cy-flashbacks whenever I wash Nashville. He is a lot more melodramatic than the rest of the cast — which tips it into some weird hybrid of HBO’s best and schmalziest soaps. I don’t know what to do with it, but I feel like such acting cannot be put to Pure Evil. I’m waiting for Cy (who seems much smarter than most of the other characters) to surprise us, and, hopefully, surprise Rayna as well. But it’s true, he could also just be as awful as Rayna keeps emphasizing.)
Karen: This is gross, but if they had money, it would “solve” too many problems–like why she won’t just leave him, or why she’s rude enough not to love him. If they have money, Rayna isn’t vulnerable, and they need her weak right now for various reasons. And let me be clear–she’s not weak financially like most people. Lady has plenty of money, she just doesn’t have rich person money. Big difference. Rayna is a pretty dang selfish character, and that’s a good thing. All these characters are deeply, deeply flawed, and that’s something I like about it. It is amusing that Juliet is the more active person (I’ve only seen through the episode where she steals the nail polish), and I am sort of rooting for Deacon to leave Rayna behind (you know, until he finds out she had his baby years ago–nah, if that were the story, we’d probably have to watch her kid with some dumb storyline). I see a show where a creator likely had to postpone nuance to sell the show to executives–two women, who hate each other, who love the same man, and there’s an evil father, and an evil mother and a shady business deal, and a random ingenue, and on and on and on… I’m hoping she has the know-how to make more of this–and I’m willing to wait patiently (through season 1) to see if she can get there. Oh, and I like the music. Enough that I would buy the album.
Alaina: I LOVE the music. I’ve been listening to it, a lot. Hayden’s voice is in my head, in my head. How did she DO that? Karen, I too am hoping for more subtlety as time goes on. I also hope Teddy dies, or something, because that actor has no charisma. The scenes with him and Powers Boothe are like Powers talking to a green screen. (Jane: Love the music so much too, but my favourite pieces are actually more Gunnar/Scarlett than Panetierre’s character. “Fade Into You” is absolutely astonishing, but the part of me that loves Tay also appreciates what Juliette is doing with that persona–aka dirtying it up.)
Jia: Teddy does need to die! Or something. The unfolding subplot about fraud appears to be leading him into an out-of-the-picture future (hopefully). My biggest character problem is Scarlett. I think it’s a really powerful representation of a young, abusive relationship, but her accent is just absolutely like an improv troupe’s version of a Southern milkmaid idiot (she is Australian though! that is why. very Claire on LOST-esque in general) and yeah. She is disgusting in terms of this one-note innocence and servitude; I get the picture that whoever conceived of her character might be like “This is a girl who really just wants to make her boyfriend dinner at the end of the day, really truly”–as if that made it better, more complex, rather than the absolute opposite. The way she is around the house with Avery is so saddening. (Jane: Does anyone else think that Eric Close just has the perfect face to portray Teddy? It is intensely dislikeable, and he always seems to be cringing. Like, oops, is it me again? It’s a prime Awful Character look, and, yes, I’m just waiting for his ruse to fall apart. What I find hard to believe is how Rayna still seems to trust him so wholeheartedly? I guess that’s the point though — to feel for Rayna’s innocence, as she dumps Deacon from her band and ignores his calls, etc.)
AHP: First thing: yes, Teddy, GAWD, so bad. As Jia gestures above, I think they’re trying to give us a way to root for Rayna to leave him. Because if there’s no ethical justification, then it just makes Rayna look like a bad mom. But if Teddy’s bad — entirely different story; she’s leaving to keep her kids safe.
Second thing: SCARLETT, EFF-ING-A, SHE IS THE MOST REGRESSIVE PIECE OF SHIT. I’m sorry, I don’t mean that misogynistically, but her reticence and, as Jia notes, the ACCENT! just drive me nuts. “Southern Milkmaid” is spot-on. She moved to Nashville “just to support” her boyfriend?
Karen: Um, ladies, don’t you see her boyfriend? He’s Lucky from General Hospital. She would crazy not to love Lucky Spencer, the kid who should have been Anakin Skywalker. Accents don’t bug me cause I’m from St. Louis, the land of no accents. All accents are therefore exotic and accurate as far as I can tell. The bigger issue is the dude she is singing with–does he have any personality at all? At least the abusive boyfriend has a dream, and a look (sort of skeevy, oily guy trying to hide how gosh darn cute he is).
Jia: (I totally think the guy she sings with is cute–can’t help it! NO ALMOST-ANAKIN THOUGH) AHP: Um, I’m digging him, but that’s an opinion almost wholly built on his singing ability. And his ability to wear plaid shirts with snaps. But where is this weird assistant-to-producer relationship going? Pure narrative device to make Scarlett jealous/realize she needs to be with someone who is not a jealous ass?
Alaina: I wish they hadn’t cast Lucky, because it makes me worry more that this will turn into a soap. That aside, I see Scarlett as totally insecure, yes, but there are actually a lot of women out there who are like that. Who, when asked what they like about their boyfriend, say, “He treats me well.” Like that’s a bonus. I am rooting for her to snap out of it, but then have singer boy (none of us know his name!) be busy with Hailey so she has to stand on her own two feet. Or for her to write with Rayna? I want the plotlines to intersect more. Also, Bunny from The Wire is distracting me with his past character lives. They need to give these people more character traits so they can fully reincarnate.
Jia: It also does not help that he is Mayor Coleman, formerly Major Colvin, right? AHP: Wow. Wow.
Alaina: On another note, Stephen and Elena are writing in their diaries on The Vampire Diaries. Why am I still watching this show? Oh, that’s right: Damon. (Karen: Damn straight, Damon.)
AHP: So what do we see as a progressive development in the Scarlett storyline? Is it getting together with singer-partner-cuteness? Is that just trading one sort of dependency for another?
Alaina: See my comment above about her being on her own. AHP: Ah yes, write with Rayna — that would be amazing. And actually enact what happens a lot in Nashville, when female writers write for more visible female performers. (Jane: AHP, I didn’t know that! But it’s also a nice reflection of the female writing that goes into Nashville as a show.)
Jia:Agree that that’s where Scarlett is going. I also think that, eventually, if we’re thinking multiple seasons, she could be a challenger. And write with Rayna is the best idea! They are just talking, in the fifth episode (which I’m watching right now) about how she needs someone; she (Rayna) was like, “Maybe I should try it, to write on my own” and her manager was like ha ha ha. Also Teddy more and more reminds me of like, Jason Bateman’s boring boring cousin
Karen: The trouble with Scarlett is that she has NO point other than to be the more authentic young girl to Juliet’s false star. She’s a plot device, but we don’t yet know in what way she will shape the plot. Other than that, she just has a pretty voice.
AHP: Interesting — especially since Scarlett doesn’t actually “do country” in a traditional sense. But she is descended from royal country stock — which is why her boyfriend loves/hates her.
Jia: There are so many “descended from” problems in this show!
Alaina: Or, Scarlett could stay in this relationship until it really gets ugly, and then turn to Rayna (her writing partner) and we could learn about just how bad it got with Rayna and Deacon before he went to rehab. It would be interesting to see them spin this relationship out in a meaningful way.
Does anyone like Mrs. Coach in this role? And isn’t that the biggest problem of the show?
Alaina: I like her in it. I buy her as selfish and spoiled. I don’t “like” her as-in I wouldn’t be friends with her – but I think that’s the point. She is isolated, just like Juliet. She doesn’t seem to have real girl friends, and has poured her energy into herself and her relationships with men. They aren’t that different, when you think about it that way. If they are brave enough to explore this (instead of just asking us to be sympathetic to her plight) I will gladly come along.
Jia: I would watch Mrs. Coach do literally anything. She is dead-ending all over the place plotwise, but I think once she does the one thing she’s obviously going to do (sleep with Deacon) or just otherwise loosens her restraints, does something unpredictable, I think she’ll be likeable. I also think that Connie Britton has a really powerful appeal when she is attached to a likeable man; she plays best as part of a partnership. Which is weird. And interesting.
AHP: Also I’m jonesing for her to become a mentor to Juliet — of course, that’s the narrative tension driving the show; as soon as they have them become friends, then the tension is over. Or is it? I mean, think about FNL: the primary narrative tension was always ostensibly will the football team succeed? but it wasn’t really, or at least that was never what I was concerned about. I liked that FNL was willing to give us established, healthy relationships and let the narrative tension play out in how they would negotiate problems that arose.
Alaina: I want them to go on tour together, but have her mentor Scarlett.
Jane: I love all the narrative predicting that’s happening in this thread! That’s the magic of television that is just starting out, and still really finding its groove. As much as the audience is adjusting to this world, so are, we should remember, the writers, directors, and actors. I have to disagree a (little) bit with what has been said prior about Scarlett’s cardboard passivity, because, as someone mentioned, we see her push back against Avery in “Move It On Over.” She acknowledges some real truths about the hierarchies in their relationship, and a break up is definitely on the horizon… But, this is all to say that this show is developing and making character reveals in every episode, and multiple ones at that. What we’ve been saying prior about Scarlett’s character needs to be continuously adjusted, especially when we’re at something like Season 1, Episode 5. This is all to say that I wonder if someone can even personally write off a show until they’ve given it at least a dedicated first season viewing.
Elizabeth: Anne, I agree with you about the role of image with not just the characters, but the image of country music. Much in the same way that NYC was the 5th main character of “SATC,” I am enjoying how Nashville the city is utilized a reflection of the current state of country music. I acknowledge that this reflection is absurd and forced at times (the lakehouse belonged to Patsy Cline?), but when the woman asks Rayna if her new CD is available at Starbucks I cracked up- because yes, the new Taylor Swift album is being sold there. On the other hand, do songwriters that sign deals with publishing houses REALLY get that kind of luxurious creative space, complete with fully stocked kitchens?
The timing of this show is very interesting to me as well; without the shift from traditional country to country-pop (to pure pop in some cases- looking at you again, Taylor), this show wouldn’t have been embraced. I’ve been pondering whether this show, with these narratives, would have worked in the 1980s. I think not because of how much class and conspicuous consumption is represented in the show as a natural influence in country music. From my limited knowledge of the scene in the 80s (Willie Nelson! Oak Ridge Boys! The Judds!), country music was still viewed as the most humble of genres. In the previous episode Rayna is nervous about performing at the country club in front of the wealthy socialites and utters “these are the people that made fun of me for liking country music!”
Lucia: Okay, sorry, am deadline/work swamped today, but I did want to bring up one thing in re: Mrs. Coach that was triggered for me by the prompt and I don’t think anyone has mentioned yet, which is that this is the woman who did American Horror Story last year. (Which is a huge draw for biggish name stars, it seems, even this year.) This is the woman who had sex with a ghost (?) in a gimp suit. So let’s not pretend that she isn’t up for anything and that, all things considered, Nashville represents a step up in character development from that particular moment in Connie Britton’s career. (Which isn’t to say she wasn’t brilliant and that show isn’t its own type of awesome, rather that she went from 4D Tami to 2D horrorshow heroine and has swung back up to a woman who behaves, IMO, in a plausible, human way.)
As far as Nashville goes, imma just say for the moment that it just occurred to me that I’d like it a lot more if it were purely populated by women of a certain age, rather than the youngs vs. olds we currently have. Less All About Eve, more…well, I almost said Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, which is totally not where I was going with it, but it’s as apt a representation of women of more or less the same age going at it, though the power balance leaves a lot to be desired in terms of conflict. POINT BEING: I’d rather see a Faith Hill vs. Shania Twain struggle for the ages than Faith vs. like, I dunno…Taylor Swift.
Jane: Lucia! “Less All About Eve, more…well, I almost said Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.” That is perfect. I agree that that would be wholly more interesting (though also more difficult to pull off and sell, I’m guessing), and perhaps difficult for the 18-20-something TV-watching crowd to relate to. It does feel like the show is feeding the mainstream public a version of “country music” that is based around loosely, but at least visibly popular, country stars. I don’t know what’s happening to pop country, but is the future Taylor Swift?
Side-Question: How much do you think Panettiere’s character is really molded after Swift? I definitely see some resonances, but Panettiere just does not seem like a sweet, fun person to hang out with. But that’s definitely the reference, right?
AHP:I’ve heard lots of references to the fact that she’s supposed to be a mix of Swift and Carrie Underwood, who is supposedly a class-A snob/piece-of-work. Although the songwriting piece definitely seems to be influenced by Swift.
I’d also be interested in women-of-a-certain age, but I do think that the two generations do represent two strains of country that do seem to continue to battle it out. There’s a great piece by Ann Powers (music critic for NPR) about the long legacy of country duets, and she points to all of the different “strains” in country that each of the characters represent — Scarlett and her singing partner are in the Civil Wars alt-country strain; Scarlett’s boyfriend is supposed to be punk-country a la Jack White, etc. etc.
Lucia: HP doesn’t seem like a fun person to hang out with, but at least she can sing in tune. And OMGOMG I did NOT know that about Carrie Underwood, that is amazing. My money would be on the “talentless but why does no one notice oh right she’s hot” part of the character being a representation of TSwift, and the rest going to another well-known behind-the-scenes pain-in-the-ass, Underwood or otherwise. (Jane: marriage of Swift & Underwood actually does sound like a mess/nightmare.) (Jia: I also see a little bit of Britney Spears, maybe a little more than a bit, in the whole family meltdown/rehab storyline with her mother. I like that storyline, because I think the actress who plays her mother is really compelling). (Jane: People have also compared Nashville to Smash, and there’s definitely some Marilyn Monroe in Juliette.)
Question: I’m loving the female networking primed to happen in this show (as Alaina said above, they need to intersect more, and I believe they will). But can we talk about male networks? What are these treacherous men HIDING from women, and from each other (this is why I want Lamar & Rayna to have some sort of memo against Teddy, eventually)? I think even if Scarlett is (as yet) a little disappointing to the show’s feminist message (I mean Callie Khouri!), then we should think about how all the men are portrayed. They are all sort of icky, no?
AHP: RIGHT, especially Powers Boothe and that weird relationship with both of his daughters, and the amount of hate he displaces onto Rayna because of the apparent actions of her mother. I think Alaina said something to me earlier this week about how these are all WEAK men — lacking confidence, gumption, legitimate power, morals, etc.
Jane:So weak! And SO CREEPY? Whenever Avery hugs Scarlett and gives that side-eye, I shiver. When they started making out, I guess, “passionately,” in episode 5, it felt incredibly dark, and somehow violent. And even Deacon — the “good one” — is getting naked with someone maybe at least 20 years younger than him? The show seems to want to portray Deacon as weak, out of control, needing female support, but again — MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE need to be taken into consideration here too.
Ok, last question from me–and this bounces off some of what has been said earlier about Scarlett–but while I’m really enjoying this show so far, I’m afraid that it’s going to turn into this thing where all women are plot devices and sources of emotional clarity in order to save damaged men. Scarlett seems mostly a pristine mirror through which to reflect everyone else’s complex interiorities, and I want her to have her own. I don’t want all these women to end up saving the men in their lives, financially, emotionally, or otherwise. But as it stands, from a narrative perspective, the women are not intersecting right now and almost all relationships are being mediated via men. AKA the men are necessary.
Elizabeth: Lucia, great suggestion re: shifting the focus to Rayna’s contemporaries. After all, Rayna was compared to Martina McBride so surely she has another female singer who has also had similar success. All I ask is that they NOT make said female singer part of another damn love triange (trapezoid?). I also see Juliette as a hybrid of Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and some Kelly Pickler thrown in for good measure.
(And on a less serious side note, I can’t read “Scarlett” without thinking of the infamous Lindsay Lohan graffiti)
Allison: Okay, I am uber-sorry for coming in late to this wholly awesome thread, but someone has to spend her Friday mornings talking about Friday Night Lights with UVa undergraduates, and that someone is me.
Now, a couple of things come to mind after reading the above:
1) While I have no doubt the creators want Panettiere to be an amalgam of Swift and Underwood, since we’re talking about past-character lives, I see her as an extension of her Heroes character, Claire Bennet. That scene where she throws her mother’s junkie partner out of her house and is standing on the doorstep of her (original) house? It would not have surprised me if she had taken flight a la Claire. Similarly, the woman makes one face.
2) Scarlett’s accent is killing me. Killing me. I don’t buy it for one second. Also, everything that’s been said about her regressive and potentially abusive relationship? Yes. I am giving Avery the side eye. I don’t trust that guy for a second. But I want her to write with Rayna and I think that’s where the show is headed. Or Juliet will write with Rayna. Or with Scarlett. There is a collaboration coming. (Jane: Triangulated female relationship? Are Rayna and Juliet going to stop fighting over Deacon, and start for Scarlett soon? It seems, though, that in the show’s diegesis, Juliet is the worst singer, Rayna the better [not true in reality]. But the show also seems to emphasize that Juliet has the better songwriting chops, and it seems, at least from Episode 5, to suggest that Rayna probably doesn’t have much experience writing songs. But who knows!) (AW: Ep 5 definitely suggests that Rayna hasn’t written before, and then makes this leap to her having completed a song worthy of recording almost immediately, right? Or did I misread that?)
3) I would watch Eric Close do *almost* anything, but that is a personal preference and neither here nor there. However, I want Kimberley Williams Paisley off the show. Ugh. (Jane: She reminds me of Bambi.) (AHP: Bambi with too much make-up). (Jia: All I can think of is that stupid Father of the Bride scene where she’s playing basketball with Steve Martin) (AW: I don’t want to hate her but I do. And I sort of resent the initial are-they-having-an-affair-or-aren’t-they way we’re introduced to her. Soapy, yes, but what would it have done for her character, for the storyline, for the larger representation of women if she had been portrayed less as someone’s wife (“I go by Margaret Kinter now” — “Robert’s wife?” or whatever) than as a businessperson who aided in a felony?)
The characterization of men is fascinating. How do you reconcile the different places we’ve seen the male characters v. the female characters–public/private, alone/surrounded by others, etc.?
AW:For instance, and this isn’t yet a fully formed thought, so forgive me, but it seems like Lamar is almost always buffeted by his daughter, or meeting with individuals alone in an office or well-appointed room. In the last episode we saw Teddy meeting with Peggy in the dark, or in a car. I would say it’s a function of the women-as-performers trope that allows the women on the show to be seen in well-lit, more crowded scenarios, but what about Deacon? Or Avery? Or even Gunnar? They’ve been alone, or solitary in some way as well.
Jia: To me, the biggest difference I’ve noted in the men/women of Nashville is that everybody seems to be chasing the same fame/wealth/power/sexual dominance, but the women perform these ambitions out in the open (as you note, a function of the female roles in the show) while the male characters’ ambitions are more of the underhand, secretive, mediated, layered type. (AW: Yes, exactly. And of course the men need the women’s support, because there are ways in which this version of success wants to happen within an idealized mid-twentieth-century world. Hence, Scarlett/Avery. Rayna playing at Teddy’s benefit, pulling her support from Coleman)
AHP: Alright, I’m calling it — I want to thank everyone for writing (people reading this have no idea how much fun it is to watch others write in Google Docs; it’s like a ghost using your computer) and hopefully we can do this again sometime soon….maybe we Scarlett bucks the eff up and Teddy’s out of the picture? Fingers crossed?
Outro to “No One Will Ever Love You……” (Can we get some of that tension back, please?)