Review: Connie Britton Elevates ABC’s Nashville Into a Compelling Hour

No spoilers.

I’ve really resented ABC’s use of some New York Post critic’s misguided proclamation that Connie Britton in Nashville is a “career role.” I think anyone who has seen or even heard of Friday Night Lights would disagree with that statement. But that doesn’t make Britton’s performance in Nashville any less commanding. She elevates what would otherwise be a typical ABC prime time soap into a legitimately entertaining juicy hour of suds and music.

Nashville centers on Britton’s Rayna James, a veteran country superstar who’s spotlight is quickly being usurped by the new sexy, young crossover starlet Juliette Barnes played by Hayden Panatierre. The cat claws have only begun to come out, but lest immediate thoughts of NBC’s Smash come to mind, Nashville isn’t just about dueling divas and the behind the scenes seediness of showbiz.

Nashville smartly injects some traditional family soap opera with that wealthy southern twang bringing up thoughts of Dallas and even the daytime soaps at their peak. Rayna’s father is a powerful politician, a wealthy man even before Rayna’s ascent to superstardom. He controls and manipulates to his heart’s content, maybe even more than Rayna already knows. And amongst the people now under his thumb, Rayna’s stay at home but ambitious husband Teddy who gets enlisted to run for mayor against Rayna and his good friend.

If that’s not enough suds for you, there’s still Juliette’s bed hopping to get to the top as well as her drug addicted mother; Deacon, Rayna’s ex lover, band leader and maybe even something more; and a cute little brewing love triangle involvong a boy next door singer and Deacon’s songwriting neice who Rayna soon hires to help reinvigorate her career.

That’s a lot of story and all of it was skillfully crammed into the premiere. The show will definitely have plenty of material to work with. But the main draw for me will be Connie Britton doing what she does best. Giving a strong, commanding performance of a woman conflicted and scared of losing what she’s had but strong enough to not give up without a fight.

It is that performance that boosts Nashville beyond being a run of the mill soap opera and instead manages to be an intriguing hour of wealth, power and personal politics.

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