Last year, after four seasons, ABC decided to cancel one of its best series’ in recent memory. Nashville has taken viewers on a ride through the lives and careers of some of the best fictional talent in the very real country music capital.
Not long after ABC axed the show, CMT picked it up and promised a back-to-basics approach to what is basically a soap opera with great songs, re-centering the focus on the orbits of long-time country queen Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton) and pop-country diva Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere).
Just a few episodes in, Nashville is better than ever, and the ratings are proving it. There hasn’t been a better time to fall in love with the characters and jump into the arc of their lives. And here are a few reasons why it’s worth checking out on CMT on Thursdays at 9:00 Eastern—don’t worry; you can binge watch prior seasons later.
NOTE: There may be some of what you may call spoiler alerts over the next few hundred words, but I prefer to call it background information. Either way, proceed with caution.
6. A renewed emphasis on the music—and the music industry
The last season or so of Nashville‘s ABC run marked a move away from the show’s bread and butter, which is the depiction of the lives of the folks in the music industry. Juliette filmed a movie and Rayna dealt with a runaway daughter while her husband, Deacon, opened a bar even though he’s an alcoholic.
CMT has brought a renewed focus on the inner workings of country music. This season, we see musicians in the studio, songwriters developing their creativity, and struggling young talent singing for tips on a busy street corner. Rayna makes decisions that involve the future of her struggling record label, Highway 65, while she battles her own personal creative drought.
The emphasis on the music and the industry make the show more fascinating. In the clip above, Deacon plays a song that he has written for a potential concept album about his relationship with Rayna.
5. Less political grandstanding
One of the biggest mistakes that ABC made with season 4 was spending too much time on a subplot involving gay country singer Will Lexington (Chris Carmack). Label owner and fellow country singer (and Rayna’s ex-fiancee) Luke Wheeler (Will Chase) drags Will into the spotlight to apparently make some kind of statement about country music not accepting gay artists.
Luke’s antics with Will draw the ire of one of the worst characters in the history of any show, a talk show host named Cynthia Davis, who is apparently supposed to represent conservatives, even though she doesn’t sound like any that I’ve ever met. When Cynthia Davis won’t let Will on her show, Luke sets up a stage and performs with Will outside her Atlanta studio:
Thank God CMT got rid of Luke’s character. Will’s still around, he’s still gay, and we still see him in that context, but instead of turning Will into a debate point, the writers simply portray him this season as an artist doing his best to make a living – who just happens to be gay. It’s a much better use of a talented actor and singer like Carmack.
4. Intrigue: could Rayna have a stalker?
Nashville hasn’t looked at much is the pitfalls of fame in the music business. This season, the show is exploring a topic it hasn’t really tackled before: Rayna may have a stalker. In the fourth episode, Rayna receives a mysterious package—delivered by hand—that includes a long letter and rose petals. Check out the first ten seconds of this clip:
Who has sent her the strange message? Is it Zach Welles, the billionaire techie who also happens to be a major fanboy of Rayna’s? Or is it Randall St. Clair, the awkward and creepy new social media manager at Highway 65? Or is it someone else completely? This is one subplot that should get especially interesting as the season unfolds.
3. A faith-based story arc
Juliette Barnes has had the rockiest road of any character on Nashville. The daughter of a drug-addicted mother and an absent father, Juliette has struggled with her own demons, including addiction, postpartum depression (mirroring Hayden Panettiere’s own battle at the same time), facing down her heritage, and—over and over again—her own arrogance.
After nearly losing her life in a plane crash, Juliette begins her recovery believing that an angel has saved her life. When she meets Hallie, (Rhiannon Giddens), the humble young woman who saved Juliette’s life, Hallie tells her that God has a purpose for her, which sets Juliette out to discover that purpose.
This subplot is turning into a beautiful exploration of faith, and I hope that Juliette will grow in her budding faith.
1. & 2. Sam Palladio & Clare Bowen
My two absolute favorite things about Nashville are the immense talents of the on-again-off-again romantic couple and songwriting partners Gunnar Scott (British actor Sam Palladio) and Scarlett O’Connor (Australian actress-musician Clare Bowen).
From their first moment in the debut season…
…to their most recent performance…
…Gunnar and Scarlett have given us some of the most memorable and lovely musical moments on Nashville. Their romantic twists and turns and alt-country stylings make even the least interesting episodes completely worth watching. Sam Palladio and Clare Bowen are without a doubt the best features of the show.
Have I whetted your appetite enough? I hope you’ll tune in to CMT on Thursdays at 9:00 p.m. and fall for Nashville like I (and several of my friends) have.