ABC Nashville: soap suds on Music Row

nashville
One of the top three shows on TV?

Although I steer clear of the auto tuned soundtrack albums, I’m a big fan of ABC’s Nashville TV series, which surely rivals The Good Wife and Game of Thrones for the best current show on TV crown.

Both Nashville and The Good Wife are on More4 in the UK, both on Thursday nights, which meant that when Southland was on the same channel on the same night, Thursday was officially the Best Telly Night Evar.

It struck me, reading through my novel The Obald four years after I’d written it, that certain sections of it read like Episodes of Nashville. That would be because I’d done a lot of research and reading about the country music industry. My chapters about Ronnie Collins and his ex-wife Marianne Duff could almost be adapted for Deakin and Rayna.

How could Nashville not succeed, given that Connie Britton (the best thing about the wondrous sitcom Spin City) is in it, and given that the music is supervised by T Bone Burnett?

Nashville hangs together on three strong threads: the business of music, the music, and the politics. It’s true that politics have gone slightly into the background in Season 2, in favour of more soapy goings on between the various characters, but each show still rests upon how emotional drama and need feeds into songwriting and performance.

What I love about it most of all is the sheer paciness of its narrative. So much is packed into each episode, no scene is longer than it needs to be, and the editing is ruthlessly efficient. Its occasional hilarious plot twists are all part of the fun. In context, too, the music is great, whether in intimate songwriting scenes, spontaneous performances, or showpiece performances. The musical and emotional journeys of the characters have you genuinely rooting for someone like Juliet Barnes (Hayden Panettiere), who was cast in the role of bratty newcomer in Season 1, but is by now a wounded soldier in the culture wars.

The show only works as well as it does because it focuses so intensely on how difficult the country music industry is for women. The men get an easy ride compared to the women, who are judged far more harshly and have to do far more sucking up to get their records in shops and on the radio. When I see real-world female country singers tweeting gratefully for their occasional radio play, I think of this show.

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