If you’re looking for something new to watch on television, you should take a look at ABC’s “Nashville” which had its season premiere Wednesday night. The storyline is about the lives of two women, Rayna Jaymes and Juliette Barnes. Rayna, as played by Connie Britton of “Friday Night Lights” fame, is the veteran country singer, the Queen of Nashville, who has been in the business for over 20 years and is watching as her star is beginning to dim. The new and younger Juliette Barnes, as portrayed by Hayden Panettiere, is doing everything in her power to take the title and limelight away from Rayna. It’s an interesting dynamic and there’s so much more to their stories.
In this first episode, we saw Rayna’s longtime recording company turn their backs on her, telling her that she wasn’t relevant any more and that the only way they would support her albums was if she became the opening act for the bright, shiny and adorable Juliette. Rayna’s response to their ultimatum was to walk out of the meeting and consider her own options regarding the direction of her career. Juliette, on the other hand, is no sweet young thing – not by a long shot. She is driven, calculating and divisive. Her relationships with men are complicated, to say the least. She’s not above bedding Rayna’s long-lost love, Deacon, to get what she’s after. If I had to compare her to any of the real ladies of country music, I’d say she’s a Taylor Swift/Kellie Pickler hybrid – there’s a laundry list of boyfriends, and there’s also a mother, on drugs, who wants back into her daughter’s life now that she has oodles of money.
Rayna is not without her own family problems. Her husband has played second fiddle, not only to her career but to that real love of her life I mentioned. He knows that he was the consolation prize, and is beginning to resent his role as stay at home dad and the publicly supportive husband of the great Rayna Jaymes. She also has deep-seated problems with her father, the wealthy, powerful politician, Lamar Wyatt, played by Powers Boothe. Lamar goes to great lengths of remind his daughter just how much he disapproves of her singing career, even to the point of telling her that she would never have made it in the business had it not been for his money, power and influence. He is a real daddy dearest. He’s also joined forces with Rayna’s husband, Teddy, recruiting him to run for Mayor of Nashville, something which was done behind her back and, apparently, was designed to gain even more control over their lives.
This isn’t a show just about country singers. In fact, you don’t even have to like country music to watch it. In defense of country music, I’d just like to say that it isn’t all about someone’s broken pickup truck, runaway dogs and broken marriages. Whitney Houston would never have had her signature song had it not been for the talented writing of Dolly Parton. There is, in fact, some very good music during the show, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The characters and story line of “Nashville” are current and relevant. They are the women of 2012 who have stepped up to become the breadwinners in their families and broadened their roles in business. They’re fighting the gender war and gaining some ground. The program is produced by Callie Khouri who has made her own mark on the world of entertainment and portrayed women in a different light. She was the force behind “Thelma and Louis” and “The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood”. Her women are not June Cleaver and they should not be trifled with. I expect we’ll see just how women can balance being both competitive and compassionate. Rayna and Juliette are doing what men have done since the beginning of time – making things happen in their careers, providing for their families and taking no prisoners. If for no other reason, watch it because these women, with all of their many issues, are incredibly fascinating. I’ll stop now before I break into some Helen Reddy song.