It was recently announced that ABC had picked up Nashville for a full season. An announcement that elated me greatly as the drama, easily fall's best, not only showcases some blindingly beautiful original music, but offers uniquely rich emotional storylines for all of its characters ... except one.
Five weeks into the season and I'm shocked Nashville has yet to give me a meaningful reason to care about Rayna James. Now, I know what you're thinking: "No way, I love Rayna James!" But if you take a step back it quickly becomes clear that you actually love Connie Britton.
Emmy nominated runs on Friday Night Lights and American Horror Story cemented Britton's status as one of the most beloved and talented actors in the business. We hang on every word, obsess over every stray tendril of perfectly condition hair and smile at every "Y'all."
Facts Nashville still relies heavily on because collective adoration of the 45-year-old remains the only reason anyone feels a modicum of compassion towards Rayna. A character who, over the first five episodes, has, among other unflattering actions, continued a decades-long emotional affair with her former lover before dumping him professionally and personally, nearly driving him off the edge of sobriety.
Granted, Deacon's near-relapse wasn't all Rayna's fault -- but try to tell me you were "Team Rayna!" when she refused to take his jailhouse phone call. This issue is further exacerbated by the fact Rayna's husband, Teddy Conrad, is the least developed character on the show. I've often wondered why these two people first got -- and have stayed -- married.
Luckily, one move could fix both these problems: a flashback episode.
Not only would that illuminate how and why Rayna ended up with Teddy instead of Deacon, but in doing so, it might clarify some questions I have about her ascent to the top. Let's face it, while Britton sounds lovely, I can't say with certainty that anyone would turn their chairs simply because of Rayna's voice. There has to be more to it.
The show has repeatedly hinted that Rayna's father, the overbearing Lamar Wyatt, might have used his limitless influence to help kickstart her career, so let's see that. Let us understand why Rayna hates her father so passionately, because without reason, there's just confusion.
Oddly, the first place Nashville should look to for cues on fixing Rayna is Nashville as the writers have done a marvelous job with the Juliette Barnes storyline from day one. Much of the credit obviously goes to Hayden Panettiere for her wonderfully raw performance, but as any actor will tell you, if it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage.
They've successfully navigated the cliche-laden waters with Juliette's mother and created a layered portrait of a young superstar, while also building a incredibly honest relationship between Juliette and Deacon. She's the one in this three-horse race (don't take your eye off Scarlett!) I find myself actively rooting for.
Which is odd because, while I chose Connie Britton as the actor I was most excited to see back on television back in August, Hayden Panettiere has become the actress I most look forward to seeing every week.
Nashville airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.
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