Just like for the “Nashville” lady of the day, Connie Britton, as Rayna Jaymes, when a few naysayers nearly got the best of her, even before she stepped down the aisle to meet Charles Esten as her Deacon Claybourne, the love of her life for two decades, some TV naysayers can’t help but speculate that dream weddings are simply parting gifts to fans, as predicted in the March 16 edition of the Huffington Post. Can this be the case for the Music City drama, whose loyal following has stuck with the show and its stars through four seasons, stints in rehab, countless on-screen tantrums, and favorite unions falling apart, then finding their way to one another again?
It is a brutal truth that any show’s success has to translate the numbers, as in ratings, but kudos should be given to ABC for its patience in allowing the musical melodrama to cultivate its faithful, both as characters and musical artists. What sets “Nashville” so uniquely apart from past, and even present, soap opera formats, such as “Blood and Oil,” is that the actors are not simply gifted in conveying their characters to the small screen, they are genuine musical artists, who are working their way up very personal paths in the music business, so similar to the people they play. As the three “On the Record” musical specials can attest, the quality of the music and the musicians is as critical to the drama’s success as any storyline. There truly is no other drama that correlates what it is to become an artist, and portray that struggle, along with its sublime moments, through fictional characters. The music from the series has been a very lucrative offshoot, as well as an added means to reach viewers. There is so much happening in the music industry, and in country music, with independent artists that it would make endless fodder to grow storylines from, as Rayna’s label on the show marks itself as more intentional in developing artists than huge sales, like many labels aim to be as these words are written.
Ratings have slightly fallen this year, but other factors have played into a difficult season. Writers and show runners had to scramble while Hayden Panettiere made a courageous decision to confront her personal battle with postpartum depression, taking a leave of absence early in the current season. Critics, tabulators, and faithful fans have not seen the full complement of the outstanding cast for several months, and now that the actress is strengthened and set to return, the end result has to be better storylines, stronger writing, and deeper character development. The show already should be credited for its stand for the LBGT community as artists in country music, something no drama had previously done in context. With Juliette Barnes’ character embodied by a more settled and invigorated Panettiere, having to stand against a talented artist and grieving woman with an ax to grind, everyone watching is in for a feast of tasty twists, tantrums, and treats that ultimately lead to a testament for strong women. The network should be willing to take this ride, at least for another season, so as Juliette’s song admonishes, in paraphrase, “Don’t put dirt on the grave of “Nashville” yet. There are far too many episodes still to come.