After four seasons, Nashville, a show that offered few concrete reasons to love it but tricked many of us into loving it anyway, has been cancelled by ABC. Were you still watching? Did you have any good reasons why?
By Season 4, the terrific music of the first season, when T-Bone Burnett was still the EP and composer, was gone. The consonant-shunning angel sisters Daphne and Maddie (Lennon and Maisy in real life) had stopped singing together due to Maddie’s aggressive coming of age. The Civil Wars-via-Anthropologie duo Gunnar and Scarlet had become more of a drag than ever, with Gunnar still a softboy and short-haired Scarlet still talking like she was in a community theater production of My Fair Lady set in the South. Luke from The OC, with the indomitable vibes of the oldest and cheeriest Chippendale at the club, was still not able to live in all his gay glory. The extremely hot producer Liam (in real life the extremely hot Michel Huisman) had disappeared; the magnificently sleazy label head Jeff Fordham (IRL Oliver Hudson) had literally fallen off a roof.
What else? Hayden Panettiere was playing Juliette as a dense block of fury, angst and postpartum depression. Her daughter was named Cadence. Glenn and Bucky, the long-suffering managers, sighed every time they appeared onscreen. Avery, Juliette’s ex-husband, and Layla, the talented college-age ex-girl of both Gay Luke and Old Jeff, were all, “Yes. Forget it. What? If we could only be together. Forget it. What? Yes.” And Rayna—the real reason you were still watching (could anyone turn their back on Connie Britton, head of household and head of label, muscling up her resilience day after day?)—had made it through (1) the death of her cruel, white-collar criminal father, (2) the imprisonment of her drip of a husband, Nashville’s former mayor Teddy Conrad, (3) nearly dying in a car accident caused by the relapse of her hot guitarist ex Deacon Claybourne, (4) one thousand subplots about label, artist, or album failures, only to wind up with Deacon in jail for assaulting his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor after the two of them lost custody of Maddie, their daughter, who was—instead of Hayden Panetierre’s Juliette, as the show originally suggested—the real successor to Rayna’s throne.
No one was ever allowed to be happy on Nashville. Brief moments of joy—romantically, sometimes, but these were almost always musical, onstage—were usually signs that something was about to go wrong. Chemistry in the studio was a harbinger. Humor, which was rare, and mostly present in Juliette’s temper tantrums, was a leavening agent as her character blew up out of control. Even lightly mischievous sidelines, like the plot where Scarlet got mildly addicted to Adderall and was fun for a goddamn minute of her life, led to tragedy: Scarlet’s brief speed-fueled solo career was cut short by her physically abusive maniac of a mom. I don’t know why I was still watching. I don’t watch much TV at all. It’s possible that the show was 80 percent casting: the characters were magnetic even as their stories were the worst. There was just enough music, just enough A&R gossip, just enough industry fluency to keep it breathing.
And now it’s gone!
Here, let’s revisit a few of the very few bright spots in four seasons of twangy, soapy, musical gloom. First, from the first episode, Juliette announcing her attention to snatch Rayna’s wig:
The shivery, tight chemistry of Scarlet and Gunnar’s first big duet:
Daphne and Maddie doing that freakin Lumineers song:
The fuck-all-y’all duet that Juliette and Rayna stayed up all night to write:
But it was always more like this one in the end.
Nashville, I’ll miss you. True to life, you brought me down every single time.
Image via ABC