Critics’ Roundtable: “Nashville”

Hayden Panettiere, Connie BrittonNashville divas Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) & Rayna James (Connie Britton)

Who doesn’t love a good soap? And there are plenty of them on the air now like the uber-popular Downton Abbey, ABC’s revitalized Revenge and even shows like Homeland have serialized elements that hook us.

And then there’s Nashville, a soap set in the exciting and already over the top world of country music. There are the successful country divas like stoic veteran Rayna James (Connie Britton) and bratty superstar Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere), the up-and-comers like songwriter Gunnar (Sam Palladio), singer Scarlett (Clare Bowen) and guitarist Avery (Jonathan Jackson, whose soap pedigree goes back to General Hospital) and late last season the series added Will Lexington (Chris Carmack), a closeted country heartthrob.

Will doesn’t believe a gay man can also be a country music superstar, and he might just be right on that score. Despite what it’s obviously doing to his mental health, he refuses to come out of the closet. As of now, he’s sleeping with young singer Layla (Aubrey Peeples) and ignoring BFF Gunnar’s pleas to accept who he is

So, with all this in the mix, is Nashville delivering on all the elements that should make it a must-see soap? We gathered some top TV critics to weigh in on the various storylines and find out what’s working and what isn’t in the series. In this roundtable is Robyn Ross (Staff Editor, TVGuide.com), Dan Forcella (Nashville recapper, TVFanatic.com), Diane Gordon (Editor, The Surf Report) and TheBacklot’s ownJim Halterman

Rayna and Luke Wheeler (Will Chase) seem to have a good thing going. Do you want to see her settle down with him, or is Deacon (Charles Esten) always and forever the man for her?

Robyn Ross: I actually like this storyline, even as a big Rayna-Deacon shipper. If Rayna and Deacon are the ultimate end game, you need them to go off on their own and have other relationships so that they can come together stronger.

Dan Forcella: I’m less about Rayna and Deacon ending up together, and much more about Rayna and Luke not being together.  Luke rubs me the wrong way, and I think he will end up being bad for the Queen of Country Music in the end.

Diane Gordon: I like that their romance is one between two equals – they’re both powerhouses of country music. But I’m betting Luke has a dark side we haven’t seen yet. I’m thinking it’ll have to do with him wanting to control Rayna’s career, which will send Rayna back toward Deacon.

Jim Halterman: I like them together, but it seems a little too good right now so the other shoe will drop sooner or later. Let’s hope it’s a smart creative choice and not something contrived like (gasp!) he has another wife or something like that. I like Will Chase on the show so even if their relationship tanks, I wouldn’t mind him sticking around.

Overall, what are your feelings about Juliette? Do we root for her or is she too frustrating as a character and the choices she makes?

Robyn Ross: Juliette will always be my favorite character to watch. Yes, she makes dumb decisions, but somehow her vulnerability always shines through which keeps me rooting for her. And she’s got the sass that every other female character on the show is lacking.

Dan Forcella: Oh, I absolutely root for her. She’s one of the only interesting female characters on the show.  She makes frustrating decisions, but that’s one of the things that makes her so likable as a character. Every time she does something that makes no sense, I’m engaged in her story.  I want her to succeed, to get over her poor decision making.

Diane Gordon: I root for her & she’s one of the reasons I watch the show. Juliette has become a far more dimensional character and I like that her story has twisted and turned. I’m thinking she’ll join Rayna’s label and then she’ll write & sing more than pop anthems and fulfill her potential as a true artist. All that said, it’s also key to keep in mind that no one can rock snakeskin leather pants like Hayden Panettiere.

Jim Halterman: I’m just ready for the next step for her character. Too many scenes of her being beaten down and sitting on the couch all alone feeling sorry for herself. We get it, she pushes people away and has nobody when the world kicks her ass. I’d be okay if she found some happy with Avery and new, non-romantic complications came up.

Chris CarmackHow long can Will (Chris Carmack) focus on career and keep his sexuality closeted? 

Poor Gay Will. How are you feeling about his story and friendship with Gunnar? Compelling? Or is the show repeating the same beats over and over? 

Robyn Ross: I like how his arc started, but there was a point when he should’ve either come out or at least opened up to Brent rather than going back to the beginning again.

Dan Forcella: It does seem to be repetitive, which is never a good thing.  He’s struggling with his lifestyle given his choice of profession. We get that. Find something else to make him an interesting character.  It’s too one note right now.

Diane Gordon: The Will story has become repetitive and doesn’t seem to be driving toward anything because we know they won’t have him commit suicide because this is a broadcast network drama, not cable. I hate to see the guy just twist in the wind.

Jim Halterman: Love the str8 guy/closeted guy relationship but, like everyone here has said, we’re getting too much repetition at this point. Time to get to the next step. Like, NOW!

On the other hand, what do you think of Chris Carmack’s performance? Glad they made him a series regular or better for a short term arc?

Robyn Ross: I think he was a good addition to the show and has surprised me with his performance.

Dan Forcella: I am glad he was made a series regular because I enjoy watching Carmack perform.  If the writers could do him some favors by improving his storyline in the near future, that would confirm the notion that his promotion was a good idea.

Diane Gordon: I think Chris Carmack is doing the best with what’s being given to him. It definitely would’ve worked better as a short term arc so there could be some sort of resolution. Playing a closeted character seems to be very limiting dramatically — which I’m assuming is a shortcoming on the writers’ part. I’m not gay, so I can’t talk about being closeted with any knowledge.

Jim Halterman: Carmack’s singing performances have impressed me almost as much as his nicely fitting blue jeans! He’s definitely an asset to the show, but I hope the coming out storyline happens soon as we can get some non-sexuality stories with him. Remember, folks, making someone gay doesn’t mean that’s the only story you have to tell.

chris-carmack-nashvilleSure, Will tried to kiss Gunnar (Sam Palladio) once, but a great friendship came out of it.

Scarlett has been spiraling a bit as she’s pulled further into the business. We smell a pill addiction storyline coming on! Good thing story-wise… or too damn predictable?

Robyn Ross: Enough with the Saved By The Bell’s Jessie Spano! Another TV character resorting to pills because of “too much pressure?” But hey, maybe it’ll liven Scarlett up a little.

Dan Forcella: Too damn predictable, overdone, and lame.  Oh you’re stressed so you need to take pills to get over it?  You’ll just do it for a bit, and you won’t get addicted?  Well I’ve got some news for you Scarlett. Saved By The Bell’s Zack Morris isn’t going to be there to settle you down when you get so excited, so excited…so scared.

Diane Gordon: There’s definitely a pill addiction story coming – talk about telegraphing done badly! The minute Liam (Michiel Huisman) handed Scarlett a bottle, it was totally obvious! It’s good story-wise because it means there’s a possibility she’ll be out of the main storyline for awhile if she uses too much and has to stop working for awhile. Scarlett is the show’s weakest link so anything that sidelines her is a positive in my book.

Jim Halterman: It’s very predictable, but I love a good soapy addiction story. But does Clare Bowen have the acting chops to really make it fun to watch? (I know, people, addiction isn’t fun – unless it’s on a prime time soap!) I know her pouty, wimpy persona needs a kick in the butt, so a bottle of pills could be the trick to show us a new (albeit glassy-eyed) Scarlett!

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