Re-watching season 2 of Nashville (season three opened a week ago tonight) on dvd, wearing tight-fittin' jeans and cowboy boots. Skinny jeans are still the thing, in July I got these terrific boots in Texas and netflix has season 2 on disc, so here I am. Add an oversize wine goblet with a splash of wine in it, and I'm good to go with this series that seamlessly does soap opera, within a fantasy country music milieu while somehow managing to get just right both how awful lot of what it is to be in the business, and how glorious too.
But then, country music as content, talent and business has always been a-boil with the real life staples that are the staples of soap opera: family, long-hidden secrets, racism, substance abuse, sexual abuse, infidelity, religious belief, pregnancies that shouldn't happen, homophobia, crime, hysterical adulation, sin and redemption, blind patriotism, guns, violence -- and some of the most beautiful voices, talented musicians and best writers the nation has ever had.
This is the Nashville that slowly evolved in the wake of the Outlaw movement in country / western music, with Willie, Waylon and the Boys back in the 1970's. Slowly, from rock and jazz, inclusion of more complex percussion and even horns got acceptable. The CSA flags started to stay home. The audience was smoking pot with enthusiasm This was the era in which the trad country audience opened up a bit -- BEFORE REAGAN and HIS MINION FROM HELL, LEE ATWATER, set it all backwards again.
As Nashville shows too, Country now can deliver Big Spectacle like the stadium giganormous pop music global stars such Beyoncé, and the grandmother of live performance lip synching, Madonna. In this contemporary post-niche climate, country, like everything else, markets acts as 'tween, teen, 'adult', romance, church, etc. Nor can one ever forget its audience is the most conservative right wing, wingnut, music audience in the world, and will lynch its heroes in a hot minute the minute the heroes step out of the lines drawn for them.
And its rapacious business devours its young and vulnerable -- men as well as women.
No Spoilers Here!
In season 2, the smart, tough but insecure and self-destructive Juliette Barnes, gets Dixie Chicked. Whether or not fans of the television series wish to admit it, what happened to that character is pitch perfect. Except, on television it was started by a jealous rival, not the government, as happened with the Dixie Chicks.
Scarlett O'Connor is another of those massively talented young women, so
insecure, and now, self-destructive because the work that is the making of what everyone can see will be / can be a glorious career doesn't allow for enough sleep, doesn't allow for hanging with friends or finding True Love. Scarlett's "So Lonesome I Could Cry".
And Rayna, the Established Beloved Star, is beset by troubles from all fronts. However, she's talented, beautiful, sexy, smart, a loving mother, and charming as only an indulged, wealthy southern belle can be charming.
That Connie Britt has an opportunity in most episodes to demonstrate just how charming over that will of steel Rayna James is, is one of the great charms of Nashville -- even more that its never milked, sometimes it goes by in the subtle flutter of eyelashes in a moment.
However, true villain, Jeff Fordam, President of Edgehill Records, without soul or art, is invulnerable to Reyna, no matter how charming. So far, both Rayna's and Juliette's wily survival intelligence have allowed them to escape every undermining ambush Jeff's set for them.
Scarlett though -- she's not so wily, nor so tough. My heart bled for her in season 2. Was there ever a Scarlett less like her namesake, Scarlett O'Hara?
The men of Nashville:
Avery -- redemption. Gunnar -- frustration. Luke -- personification of masculine success. Will -- a liar. Deacon -- personification of how charming southern manhood can turn in a moment to dead-eyed violence. Teddy -- a real creep.
The relationships among all these characters form and dissolve into one another like the patterns made in a kaleidoscope. Like the songs on a Country album going from Saturday Night Honky Tonk Love to Sunday Morning Remorse, one right after another, each one feeling as authentic as the previous one.
The writing for Nashville is as strong as the music, which is very very strong. The songs written for the series and performed on the episodes ar -- my opinion! -- superior to most of the songs by actual Nashville artists. I liked season two very much while watching it. But being able to see the episodes back-to-back, and without those awful commercials, allows for one to really see how skillfully everything has been done. Even elements that viewers including myself didn't much care for while the season was running, make a lot more sense, and are a lot stronger without those long seasonal interruptions, not to mention the commercial interruptions and the week-long breaks.
Season three has begun, which is an excellent thing in this crisis-driven, fracked out old world. Gonna listen to some Hank Williams now.