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“Nashville” Comes Up Strong

For those of us who reside in Music City, there's always a “cringe factor” when a TV network or movie studio announces plans to portray Nashville and the country music industry. Mostly, the products have fallen into the dismal failure range, like the recent film Country Strong, relying on stereotypes and lacking any authenticity, serving only to reinforce the same old clichés.

But Nashville induces few cringes, mainly because it depicts the city as a hip, cosmopolitan place where people dress as if they actually belong in this century and don't all have three names. Plus, it tells a believable, potentially compelling story.

The very excellent Connie Britton stars as Rayna James, the "reigning [interesting how that plays off her first name] queen of country," an established superstar who's seeing record sales plummet, along with concert attendance. After being told by her record label that "the old business models are irrelevant," implying that perhaps she is as well, Rayna is asked to co-headline a tour with rising young star Juliette Barnes, played by Hayden Panettiere, a singer in apparent need of all that recording technology has to offer. An awkward and catty backstage encounter between the two sets up what's certain to be a captivating TV rivalry.

Connie Britton is outstanding in the main role, singing well enough to come off credibly. Hayden Panetierre provides the villainous, vixeny spark that her part requires, without going overboard. Plus, the soundtrack features original music from top writers, both from within and outside the country realm. Throw in some politics and scandalous behavior and you have all the right elements that are certain to draw viewers and keep them tuned in.

Some of the music business machinations and dialogue ("She's the number one crossover artist," says one exec to Rayna about Juliette, as if Rayna wouldn't know) might seem a bit overblown, but this is a drama, not a documentary. Keep that in mind and you'll have a good time visiting Nashville every week.

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