I’ve been waiting all fall for the Nashville pilot. I loved the premise, I love Connie Britton, and I’d heard great things about it. The episode definitely didn’t disappoint. The characters are great, and the conflicts that have been set up are perfect.
If you didn’t catch it or haven’t heard yet, here’s the just: Connie Britton plays Rayna James, a country singer whose latest tour and album aren’t selling like they used to. Her label suggests she “co-headline” (open) for Juliette Barnes, a hot young starlet played by Hayden Panetierre. Hayden is great in the role that everyone has accurately been calling “mean Taylor Swift”. The pilot does a great job of immediately putting us on Rayna’s side, but making sure that Juliette isn’t just a one-dimensional villain.
There are a few things about Juliette that make her a more complex character than just “mean” and “slutty”. Her mother is a drug addict – we see Juliette yell at an assistant for allowing her mother to get her phone number and she seems bratty, but later Juliette calls her mother from in a closet and we understand why. She’s a young girl who’s achieved a lot of success, and she won’t give her mother money for drugs.
Juliette also overhears Rayna bashing her music, when Rayna pays a visit to her music producer. He was also recording Juliette’s new album, and took his work home from him. Juliette had already been rude to Rayna, but hearing Rayna compare Juliette’s music to feral cats from the bedroom gave her a reason to take it up a notch to downright nasty.
Juliette is going after Rayna’s guitarist, Deacon, a no one country singer who had a thing with Rayna years ago. By the end of the episode, he’s at Juliette’s house with her on his lap. Deacon’s pretty blond niece working at the cafe is an interesting character, because she’s writing the kind of music that Rayna sings, and she herself has a beautiful voice. I like where that could go.
The mayoral race stuff, and Rayna’s father, don’t interest me as much just yet. Rayna and her husband’s “cash poor” situation make her decision about touring with Juliette harder. if they were rich, Rayna wouldn’t need the album to sell well in order to stay in her fancy house. And having a troubled relationship with her powerful father makes asking him for money an impossibility for Rayna. It wasn’t until her father started bringing up Rayna’s past troubles that I got interested – that he secretly paid for her first album to be made, and that one of her daughters might not be her husband’s. (By the way, Rayna’s adorable kids are played by these YouTube stars who are basically the best.)
I loved the dialogue in the pilot (I could watch Rayna and Deacon flirt all day long), and the most important thing about the pilot is that it left me wanting more. What will that old man do with the pretty waitress and Rayna? Will Rayna end up touring with Juliette? Will Bunny from The Wire still be on the show if he doesn’t win the mayoral election? How long before Rayna gets divorced?