Reigning queen of country music Rayna Jaymes is having a bit of a tough week. First she's notified by her label that her new album is a dud, and tickets for the tour she's about to launch in a few weeks haven't been selling. Her flawless head of hair seems to be no help in this matter, and so the suits at the label have hatched an idea: Rayna can combine tours and "co-headline" with country-pop crossover ingénue Juliette Barnes. Juliette is a mean, talentless, and busty lass who no doubt is into vajazzling, and who could give less than a hot chicken wing about Rayna and her plight. Rayna is not thrilled about the idea of essentially opening for Juliette either, but only has a couple of days to think about it or face ambiguous dire consequences. Part of Rayna's problem is that her deadbeat white-collar husband lost all of their money somehow, and if they want to keep their house she needs to get to work.
But that's not the only problem that Rayna faces! She not only has to face up to the ongoing humiliation that is Juliette's astronomical success, but also has to deal with the fact that Juliette is trying to a) hire b) sleep with c) all of the above, a great deal of the men in her life. First it's her producer Randy, who gives Juliette three radio-friendly songs that Rayna had formerly passed on. But the one that's really going to hurt is Deacon, Rayna's lead guitarist and bandleader and -- we are to infer -- the true love of her life. Rayna and Deacon may not be banging now, but they did at one time and Deacon is quite possibly the secret babydaddy of one of Rayna's kids. I mean, the secret babydaddy could be someone else, but Rayna is so likeable and upstanding that one hopes she'd only cheat on even her deadbeat husband with someone who is that superior in the true love arts, despite the fact that he wears a denim shirt with jeans.
And speaking of daddies, Rayna's is a doozy. It turns out he is very, very rich, and very, very evil. It is all he can do not to yell, "Mwah ha ha ha!" at the end of every scene - even the ones that he's not in. Daddy Dearest wants Rayna's husband, Teddy, to run for mayor of Nashville so he can build a major league baseball field, and probably do many other things that are a whole lot more nefarious. Teddy doesn't really have much else going on right now, so is quick to take up the offer even though he has no actual political experience. Rayna is less thrilled about the idea, given the fact that she hates her dad and knows that no good can come of being under his thumb. Though she was scheduled to sing at the campaign announcement of a good friend who also is running for Mayor, Rayna faces a tough choice as to whether she's going to stand by her man against her better judgment. And FYI, Rayna is not the only one with parent issues! It turns out that Juliette's mom is a giant meth-head, which might explain why she's so stank all the time.
And then there's the significant musical and romantic subplot! Deacon has a niece named Scarlett, who is a poet working at the famed Bluebird Café. Because Scarlett is a dumb-ass who lives inside of a mushroom cap with hummingbirds as her handmaidens, she never thought of turning her poems into songs despite the fact that a) she hears music in her head when she writes them; b) SHE LIVES IN FREAKING NASHVILLE. Eventually her Bluebird colleague, Gunnar, convinces her to let him help put them to music. Gunnar has a major, major crush on Scarlett and is clearly her perfect match despite the fact that she's hard-core into her cocky songwriter boyfriend Avery. But it's Gunnar and Scarlett's song that is the real showstopper. Rayna's ally, legendary producer and songwriter Watty White, happens to be in the audience when they perform it at the Bluebird's open mic and gives Rayna a call to hear it, saying that he has an idea. It turns out that Rayna is in need of ideas, since, in regard to the "co-headlining" tour proposal, she told the head of her label to kiss her decision as it walked out the door. She's also in need of a bit of good fortune, since she ultimately decided to support Teddy for his mayoral run, despite her clearly superior instincts and the fact that it is obviously going to be disastrous.
It's the Nashville pilot! Get out your banjo and hot chicken and settle in. We enter with gorgeous overhead shots of the city and surrounding verdant landscape. The Eli Young Band sings us in with a song that sounds peppy and lovely, but when you hear the final line of the chorus -- "Keep on dreaming even if it breaks your heart" -- you can rest assured that there are plenty of hard times to come. We get a quick shot of Printers Alley in which -- tourism fun fact! -- you will find establishments that have signs outside advertising naked karaoke. Don't fall for it, they're just strip clubs. Uh, not that I know from experience.
Soon enough we're in the big, beautiful house of our protagonist, Rayna Jaymes. The preponderance of "y"s in her name can only indicate a complex, sensitive soul. Is it a vowel? Is it a consonant? It's sometimes both! Just like life. TWoP: Your new source for Zen wisdom. Rayna, who is getting ready for work (and for her "work" entails being a country music superstar), kisses her two daughters, the littlest of whom is held by her husband Teddy. Little daughter Maddie asks Teddy why mama has to go to work and he says that someone around there has to earn a living. As he explains with a kiss that they are now the type of rich known as "cash poor," we are left to wonder why he's so affable about being a deadbeat.
But no matter! Soon we are on stage with Rayna Jaymes and her glorious hair and sequined jacket as she sings about the long, long road to independence and demons and riding shotgun and already being gone. It's classic country fare and I could probably listen to it for hours were it not for the fact that, to put it politely, she cannot fucking sing. And let me be clear, here. Connie Britton is glorious generally and in this role and seems to have recovered quite well from her recent birthing of the devil's spawn. But. It is difficult to contrast heroine Rayna's genuine country-fried talent with the caterwauling of her skanky upstart nemesis Juliette Barnes when her voice is thin as the measly strands that cling to existence under John Travolta's toupee. Sorry, Connie Britton, I still love you! And I am working really hard to suspend my disbelief! I will add that this show needs to hire some lip syncing consultants stat.
Rayna leaves the stage to copious cheering and yells, "God bless Watty White!" I had to rewind this bit about 14 times before I realized that was the name of a person and use all of my collective Googling skills to figure out the spelling of "Watty." And this is a Grand Ole Opry celebration of Watty, because he is a legendary producer and songwriter. And Rayna is the reigning queen of country! OR IS SHE? And here's a fun fact for you: the Grand Ole Opry is in a giant outlet mall. Or, technically, I suppose, across the parking lot from one. You go hoping to find the ghost of Johnny Cash and instead are faced with a J. Crew Factory Store. Lots of weird feelings abound and you wind up wishing you had just toured the Ryman instead. Backstage, Rayna hugs Watty White and wonders where in the world she'd be without him. Well she certainly wouldn't be as strong a contender in the alliteration Olympics! (Side note: If you ever accidentally liked an Eagles song, actor J.D. Souther is quite possibly responsible.)