Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.
The Pedigree: The show was created and written by Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood), and Steve Buchanan (former chairman of the Country Music Association) and R.J. Cutler (Flip That House, The September Issue) join her as executive producers. Cutler directed the pilot.
The Cast & How You Know Them: Nashville stars Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights, American Horror Story) and Hayden Panettiere (Heroes). Its large supporting cast includes Powers Boothe (Deadwood, 24), Charles Esten (Enlightened, Big Love), Eric Close (Chaos, Without a Trace), Clare Bowen (Home and Away), Jonathan Jackson (General Hospital), Sam Palladio (The Hour, Episodes), and Robert Wisdom (Burn Notice, The Wire).
The Premise: Nashville is the story of Rayna James, the reigning queen of country, as she tries to stay relevant and fend off up-and-comer Juliette Barnes and hold her family together even as her difficult, powerful father decides to run her husband for mayor. Meanwhile, Juliette has her own story and complicated past, as do a variety of other people in Rayna and Juliette’s orbit, including Rayna’s bandleader’s young niece, who has plenty of songwriting talent of her own.
What Works: This was a thoroughly delightful pilot. I loved the music and the complicated character dynamics and immediately wanted to know more of their backstories. Connie Britton is, as always, an extremely compelling leading lady, and I was impressed by how well Hayden Panettiere held her own. The supporting cast is strong as well. The writing was good and the whole pilot cohered very well, even though there was a lot going on. This might be the pilot this season that most made me want to see more of the show immediately.
What Doesn’t: Some of the supporting characters are a bit one-dimensional so far, but there’s time for that to be fixed. There are a lot of different threads that the show needs to hold together here, which always makes me worried that the show will devolve into a mess, but if they keep up the quality of the pilot, they should be fine.
Our Favorite Line: “My mama was one of your biggest fans. She said she’d listen to you while I was still in her belly.” “Well, bless your little heart. That is a charming story.”
Other Items of Note: If you like the music, some of the songs from the pilot are available on iTunes. I particularly recommend “If I Didn’t Know Better.”
You Might Like This if you like character-driven soaps, stories about strong women trying to make their way, dramas about complex family dynamics and politics, or, of course, musicals. But it’s worth mentioning that, at least in the pilot, all the music is in the context of rehearsals and performances, so those who don’t like people randomly bursting into song while they go about their daily activities shouldn’t be too worried.
If You’re Interested: Nashville premieres tonight on ABC and CTV two at 10/9c tonight.
(Photo courtesy of ABC.)