[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show: "Nashville" (ABC)
The Pitch:"Take 'Dallas,' replace oil with country music, transplant it to Nashville and... BAM!" Or, if you prefer... "You know how NOBODY saw 'Country Strong'? We could ditch the title, turn it into a TV show and nobody would ever know."
Quick Response: ABC's "Nashville" has every element in place to be a potentially great show. Or at least it has every element in place to be a fun primetime soap in an underutilized location with perhaps a little extra substance. And maybe the problem that I have with this pilot, which is solidly written by Callie Khouri and solidly directed by R.J. Cutler, is that it just has too many elements in place and no way to do justice to all of those elements in 42 minutes. Every time I got into one plotline or another, I was abruptly yanked out and forced into another and just when I settled in and decided I was interested in that plotline, it was off to something else. I got no cumulative impact out of the pilot at all, but I could see how I'd happily watch a series that ACTUALLY focused on Connie Britton's Reba-esque Raya (kinda an inverted Mrs Coach, as a woman whose long overshadowed husband decides he wants his own profile) or Hayden Panettiere's Taylor Swift-esque Juliette (kinda an emotionally wounded, sexually voracious singing dwarf) or Powers Boothe's Lamar (kinda JR Ewing, only played by Powers Boothe) or the sweet dynamic between Sam Palladio and Clare Bowen (like a country-tinged "Once"). What I didn't buy was the attempt, at least in the pilot, to pretend like all of the storylines had equal value, when they clearly don't. Boothe and Britton are, of course, two actors who I'd watch do just about anything and this has the potential to be the best project for Britton since "Friday Night Lights" and for Boothe since "Hatfields & McCoys" (yes, I'm well aware that those projects were two years and one year ago). Panettiere doesn't have their chops, but she's actually perfectly cast in this role and I love the visual dexterity required to frame her in a way in which she looks full-sized. Credit to Khouri and Cutler for their treatment of the eponymous city, which gets to be the only character in every scene and therefore the only character I fully bought. And credit to T-Bone Burnett for a few original country songs that, without question, could be hits in the hands of the right artists. This is just a hard sort of sprawling epic to get right in a network TV hour. "Nashville" could be the sort of show that works best cumulatively, rather than one episode at a time. Then again, I have colleagues who loved this one, so they obviously connected in a way I did not.
Desire To Watch Again: Fairly strong. I watched a full season of "Revenge" in this time period and I didn't like "Revenge" and "Revenge" didn't have nearly the number of quality elements that "Nashville" has already, or the grasp on a grounded and interesting reality that "Nashville" may aspire to. In a perfect world, I'd have one or two additional "Nashville" episodes to see before writing a review, just to have a better idea of the focus moving forward.
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Emily Owens, M.D.'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Mob Doctor'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Animal Practice'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Last Resort'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Vegas'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Beauty & The Beast'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's '666 Park Avenue'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries