'Nashville' The Complete First Season DVD: Sublime Country Music And Great Actors Make This Show A Must Watch
If you are a fan of country music, or just good music in general, and television dramas revolving around families, relationships and rivalries, then Nashville is a perfect show for you.
There are plenty of television shows that feature great music in the background, but a show that puts music in the forefront, having its stars sing and the entire plot basically revolve around music and musicianship? That is a rare gem to find. ABC's Nashville hit a high note with it's freshman season, telling the story of both celebrity and up and coming musicians struggling to make it, or keep on making it, in the country music capital of the world.
Season One begins with Rayna James, played by the beautiful and lovable Connie Britton, as the reigning Queen of Country. But her rule is being threatened by the sexy, confident ingenue and pop country hybrid artist Juliette Barnes. Barnes, played impeccably by Hayden Panettiere, is sexy, fiesty and cutthroat. Panettiere is also a gifted singer, much more so than Britton, though Britton does a good enough job to make Rayna's success believable.
Juliette Barnes is the new country princess on the scene, burning up the Billboards, and is diva enough to want to knock Rayna off her throne permanently. Throughout the season, both women learn they need to take cues from the other one in order to further their careers. This is easier said than done, considering the competition and frequent contention felt between the two, but this has to be put aside for them both to stay on the top of the chart-topping game.
The women's rivalry doesn't end with records. Rayna's long time love, recovered alcoholic Deacon Claybourne, is a gifted guitarist and Rayna's right-hand band leader. Their passionate love ended when Deacon's continued addiction hurt Rayna one too many times, with him still unwilling to seek help. When Juliette meets Deacon, now clean, she is instantly attracted to him both personally and professionally, and she is the kind of girl who knows how to get what she wants. Throughout the first season, Deacon flip flops between who he loves to play with, both on stage and in the bedroom, but it's never disrespectful or anything less than engrossing. Deacon, played by the ultra talented and strikingly handsome Charles Esten, is also completely likable, and you root for him to make the right decisions.
Rayna and Deacon's love does live on but, in typical soap fashion, things are never simple. Making things more complicated is the fact that Rayna has been married for over a decade to Teddy (Eric Close) a man who went from watching her perform from the sidelines to running for Mayor of Nashville. Teddy is propelled into the election by Rayna's cutthroat, manipulative politician father Lamar, played to perfection by Powers Booth. Rayna's complicated relationship with Lamar and her sister Tandy (fellow fiery red head Judith Haog) creates further complications in Teddy and Rayna's marriage once Teddy is working alongside Lamar. Rayna and Teddy have two lovely daughters, talented real life sisters Lennon and Maisy Stella, whose characters dream of following in their mother's legendary footsteps. The paternity of older daughter Lennon comes into question and is a thrilling story line that continues into Season Two.
Season One addresses the romantic quadrilateral between Rayna, Deacon, Teddy and Juliette. But Juliette has a long line of rotating men, as she uses men to fill the void that her mother's long-term addiction and poor parenting has left in Juliette's heart. Juliette's mother, Jolene, is present in the season and continues to bring complication and emotional baggage to Juliette's already jam-packed life.
As stated, Nashville not only focuses on the two country queens working on their careers but also on talented newbies looking for their stars to rise and their chance to shine in the spotlight. Deacon's niece, Scarlett, played by brilliant songbird Clare Bowen, finds her inner country singer when paired with co-worker Gunnar (Sam Palladio). Sparks fly both on stage and romantically, but this relationship is complicated as well, as Scarlett is dating aspiring country-alt-rock musician Avery Barkley at the beginning of the season. Avery gets into all kinds of mischief during Season One, breaking Scarlett's heart along the way and opening the door for Gunnar to eventually hurt her as well. Many reviewers were not fans of these convoluted side stories, but I wouldn't change a thing considering the music that comes out of these characters and plot lines. Giving Deacon a blood relative is also a nice touch, helping to balance his loner persona.
The Complete Season One DVD, now available, is a collectors edition for anyone as enamored with the show's riveting plot lines and phenomenal musical numbers as I am. We're not talking some so-so music here. We're talking about songs that are breathtakingly catchy, sexy and soulful. Within two weeks of the show's premiere, five Nashville numbers populated the iTunes Top 5, netted $1 million and turned the shows' actors were into bonafide musical artists. These are original songs of the highest caliber, written by the likes of John Paul White of The Civil Wars ("If I Didn't Know Better") and Elvis Costello ("Twist Of Barbwire"), and produced by legendary producers T Bone Burnett and Buddy Miller.
"If I Didn't Know Better" completed the show's pilot episode, cementing many viewers then and there to continue watching the show. It definitely stands out as one of the best tracks from the first season but is in the company of numerous other incredible songs.
Britton's best musical moments in Season One include "It's My Life" and "Stronger Than Me," while Hayden Panettiere shines with "Boys and Buses," "Telescope" and "Consider Me," written by Ashley Monroe (The Pistol Annies) and Brendan Benson (The Raconteurs). Nashville's two female stars also have a fun and spunky, fast-tempo duet with "Wrong Song." Standout soulful duets include "Fade into You" by Scarlett and Gunnar and "No One Will Ever Love You" by Deacon and Rayna.
Deacon's solo performance of "Back Home" brings Juliette to tears and will have you reaching for the tissues as well. Other fantastic musical moments include Jim Lauderdale and Odie Blackmon’s “Tough All Over” and Angela Lauer and Natalie Hemby’s “Looking For A Place To Shine." Also, Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys produced "Bitter Memory," an unreleased song written by Americana songstress Lucinda Williams and sung by Britton.
Overall, the attention to authenticity with the show's music allows the true Nashville to shine through all of the show's soapy (but fabulous) glitter. The show also features excellent views of the city and sets, both real and rebuilt, of city landmarks, including renowned music hotspot, the Bluebird Cafe.
The season one premiere is one of the best pilot episodes I've ever seen and the season finale (""I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive") is excellent, ending in a classic "OMG" moment. Throughout Nashville's first season, you will get to know emotionally complex characters and intricate and complicated relationships, hear incredible music, see amazing performances and be totally blown away by the talent of the cast. The Complete First Season DVD also offers great Bonus Features, including a tour of the set by the Stella sisters ("Stellas Go On 'Tour'") and a documentary about the filming of the show in Nashville and what the city means to the show and its music ("Nashville Comes to Nashville"). There are also wonderful behind-the-scenes interviews and performances giving an inside scoop of two of the show's original songs, "Consider Me" and "If I Didn't Know Better" ("On The Record: B-Side"), as well as the the obligatory but beloved Bloopers and extra Deleted Scenes for the die-hards.
Nashville, the Complete First Season, now available on DVD. Nashville's Second Season is currently airing Wednesdays at 10 pm on ABC.
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