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Nashville: The Complete First Season (2012-2013)

ABC Studios
DVD Released: 9/17/2013

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/11/2013

In my recent review for the show Scandal, I wrote about the proliferation of television shows which deal with certain professions. For decades, we've been bombarded with shows about police officers/detectives, private investigators, doctors, and lawyers. These shows may have seemed fresh in the 1950s, but most feel like also-rans today. Therefore, it's nice to see a show which promises to take us inside of a new world and give us the ins-and-outs of a industry which we don't often see on TV. Nashville promises to show us what the world of country music is really like, while also offers the soapy goodness of a prime-time show. Can it be both enlightening and entertaining?

At the center of Nashville is Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton), the reigning queen of country music. Despite having a long career, Rayna's star doesn't shine as bright as it used to and she and her husband, Teddy Conrad (Eric Close), are having financial difficulty. But, Rayna tries to stay busy raising her two daughters, Maddie (Lennon Stella) and Daphne (Maisy Stella). Rayna maintains contact with Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten), who has played guitar in her band for years, and who she once dated. Deacon's niece, Scarlett O'Connor (Clare Bowen) has come Nashville with her boyfriend, Avery Barkley (Jonathan Jackson), who is determined to make it with a rock infused country sound. Scarlett works as a waitress and find herself sharing some poetry with co-worker, Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio), who is musician. He sets Scarlett's words to music, and the two suddenly find themselves as song-writers. Deacon takes a gig playing with Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere), a young singer who has become an overnight sensation. However, Juliette is very driven and is determined to not only have longevity, but to replace Rayna at the top. Rayna's father, Lamar Wyatt (Powers Boothe), is a powerful political figure, and he convinces Teddy to run for mayor. This only adds to Rayna's stress and makes it more difficult when she decides to go on tour.

In the event that you can't tell, there are a lot of characters in Nashville and a lot happens. And while the show uses the music industry as a backdrop, there is a very soapy series and most of the storylines deal more with the characters and their interactions. It can be compared to another series named after a city. In Dallas (the original -- I haven't seen any episodes of the new series), the family worked in the oil industry and that occasionally drove the show, but it focused more on the romances and back-stabbing. We get the same thing with Nashville. Yes, everyone in the show is either in the music industry, wants to be in the music industry, or is related to someone in the music industry, but about 70% of the show focuses on personal issues. Thus, we get a prime-time soap with a unique setting and set of circumstances, but it's still a prime-time soap.

However, given all of this, something is missing from Nashville. The show simply isn't gripping. Maybe I made a mistake watching the series right after the break-neck pace of the second season of Scandal, but Nashville seems to crawl along, offering newly truly new or interesting. The characters are all stereotypes and beyond that, every single one of them is so damaged that it's difficult to truly relate to or feel for them. Juliette is a power-hungry brat who is hard to like. Rayna seems benevolent at times, but can be cruel when she needs to. Deacon is an OK guy on the surface, but he's quick to turn on people. Scarlett and Gunnar are simply annoying. Scarlett's fake southern accent is grating and based on her clothing and her overly innocent view of the world, I was expecting a plotline to surface which revealed that she'd time-traveled from the past. These characters are then placed in meandering and often dull storylines. The show does a good job of having the various people cross paths, but there are no truly surprising plot twists here and everyone does about what you expect them to.

In the end, Nashville has music, but it really doesn't go inside the music industry like I though it would. The music is supervised by Oscar-winning producer T-Bone Burnett, so that certainly carries cache with it. However, don't ask me about the music, as I hate country with every fiber of my being and fast-forwarded through every song. I'm sure that some will say that I was missing out on the show by doing this, but the songs would not have improved the lack of true drama here. Nor, would they have taught me any more about how record deals are made or how albums are recorded, something which Nashville often glosses over. Again, maybe it was my Scandal hangover, but I found Nashville to be dull and unlike many of ABC's dramas, it never drew me in.

Nashville: The Complete First Season really wants us to care about a baseball stadium on DVD courtesy of ABC Studios. The five-disc set contains all 21 episodes from the show's first season. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source material. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, but some scenes do come off as a bit soft. The lowered detail level of the DVD makes this rival, but not better, HD broadcast quality. The show carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The music (yes, I sampled it) sounds very good, with the vocals and the instruments between distinct from one another. The stereo effects are good, most notably when things move from side-to-side. The surround sounds get a huge boost from the concert crowd scenes, but we also get much more subtle, individualized sound effects, such as a doorbell coming from the rear.

The Nashville: The Complete First Season DVD set contains a few extras. Disc 1 offers "Nashville Comes to Nashville" (6 minutes), which focuses on the fact that the show is shot in Nashville and how Creator Callie Khouri knows the city. We get comments from the cast and creative team who talk about how actually being there influences the show. The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 5. "Stellas Go On 'Tour'" (9 minutes) profiles real-life sister Lennon and Maisy Stella who play siblings Maddie and Daphne Conrad respectively on the show. They take us around the set, showing hair & makeup, costuming, and what life is like during production. "On the Record: B-Side" contains two segments which highlight the show's songs -- "Consider Me" has comments from composers Ashley Monroe & Brendan Benson, while "If I Didn't" looks at the search for the perfect song for Scarlett and Gunnar. We get 22 DELETED SCENES which are taken from various episodes. The final extra is a 2-minute reel of BLOOPERS.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.