TV Review: 'Nashville'

In 1975, Robert Altman's "Nashville" used Music City as a backdrop for a multi-layered ensemble about country music, politics, Vietnam and the state of the American Dream in the Bicentennial.

Since you probably can't trademark the use of a city's name in an entertainment program, FOX has a new unscripted drama that's also titled "Nashville" and also takes an ensemble approach to the country music scene. Of course, FOX's version is from the folks behind "Laguna Beach" and it has about as much to do with the practical realities of breaking into the Nashville music scene as "Anchorwoman" had to do with the ins-and-outs of small-town news coverage.

FOX is referring to "Nashville" as a "high-drama docu-soap," but the concentration is heavily on the "soap" part of things, at least for the first episode. We're very quickly introduced to Terry Bradshaw's daughter Rachel, who wants to make it in Nashville not on the strength of her father's name, but apparently on her perky blonde good looks (we never hear her sing). Rachel has a boyfriend, but almost immediately breaks up with him to pine after Clint, whose father runs a jet sales company and who turns out to be as detestable (and musically irrelevant) a character as you could hope for, particularly once he begins flirting with comely local newcomer Mika, literally a coalminer's daughter from Kentucky and gifted with the kind of voice that absolutely could put her through to an "American Idol" finale. Do I smell a love triangle? Better make it a square, because Mika's already caught the attention of Matt, who seems like a nice enough and talented enough guy, which means he doesn't stand a chance.

"Nashville" is contrived in exactly the way that fans of "Laguna Beach" and "The Hills" have grown to expect and love. It's the kind of show where we're subjected to one lead's tear-filled good-byes with her father and stock footage of a departing plane, only to discover that she's actually been in Nashville for a couple years. It's the kind of show where viewers are just supposed to accept that two attractive leads meet-cute, even though both guy and gal are probably smart of enough to recognize that they're each being followed by a camera crew. It's the kind of show where nearly every single line of dialogue (and I dare not approach it as anything less staged than "dialogue") sounds like a cliche from a self-help manual, all mumbling about the difficulties of achieving your dreams and the rewards of perseverance. It's the kind of show where when Rachel breaks up with that long-distance love, she does it with the cameras rolling and with a crib sheet in front of her (which helps her get off the phenomenal kiss-off line "Like, I understand this sucks for you and you know what the bad thing is? It doesn't suck for me").

Presumably because of the milieu, everybody on "Nashville" is white and relatively young and, for the first episode at least, quite attractive. There are less telegenic characters on the fringes, but how are they going to complete if the vapid cute kids keep hooking up on camera. We'll also see if anybody addresses the fact that the biggest threat to the traditional Nashville-bred country scene is "American Idol," which has become a better talent goldmine for the genre than any A&R rep.

It's pleasingly ironic that the pilot episode opens with the Big & Rich song "Rollin'," which begins with the lyric "Brothers and sisters, we are here for one reason and one reason alone... to share our love of music." Viewers will watch the show for one reason and one reason alone: Trashiness.

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