"Nashville": Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere shine in series premiere

Series premiere: Oct. 10, 10 p.m. ET, on ABC Connie Britton plays an almost-over-the-hill country music queen who's battling to hold her own against an upstart superstar (Hayden Panettiere). ABC

"Nashville" had plenty of music in its premiere, but don't mistake this show for "Glee," or even "Smash."

Country music is an integral part of this ABC drama created by Callie Khouri, but that's because it's an integral part of its namesake city. But it's not the only thing the show's about - there's much more going on in this promising, confident series premiere.

Connie Britton ("Friday Night Lights," "American Horror Story") stars as Rayna James, a country music veteran facing a declining career. Her latest album isn't selling, and her record label wants her to combine tours with Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere of "Heroes"), a much younger pop-country rival whose star is on the rise.

There's also Rayna's bandleader and former flame Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten), whose own singer-songwriter career never took off, and his niece Scarlett (Claire Bowen), who waitresses at the Bluebird Cafe (a real Nashville spot), writes poetry and by the end of the episode shows major potential as a singer-songwriter herself.

But "Nashville" extends beyond the music. We also meet Rayna's father, Lamar Wyatt (Powers Boothe), a local power-player with whom she wants little to do.. In the pilot, he drafts Rayna's husband, Teddy Conrad (Eric Close) -- a failed businessman tired of standing in the shadow of his wife's success -- to run for mayor.

Both Britton and Panettiere shine here as the dueling country rivals. Rayna's record label tells her to go on tour with Juliette or leave the label, which she stands up and does. Juliette is presented as aggressive and manipulative (and, a recording session scene shows, heavily Auto-Tuned), but is later shown to also be a sad and lonely girl, whose drug-addicted mother calls often begging for money.

The self-assured pilot episode moved smoothly between each of the storylines - the two top country acts, the lower-tier singers hoping for a break, the political dealings in the town and the characters' struggles in their personal lives - and shows the potential to be one of the best new shows out this fall.

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  • Jessica Derschowitz

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