August 11, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Nashville”


An odd thing happened to NASHVILLE in its 5th season, as it shifted networks to CMT and showrunners to Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick.  When series creator Callie Khouri and original showrunner Dee Johnson were in charge, Nashville had revolved around three women:  country music superstar Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton), glitzy troublemaker Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere), and naive newcomer Scarlett O’Connor (Claire Bowen).  Britton, though, decided to leave the show after its changes were in place, and the center of gravity of her storylines shifted to her recovering alcoholic widower Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten).  (And to a lesser extent, to Rayna’s teen daughter Maddie, played by Lennon Stella.)  Juliette became a whining, paranoid nag whose major plot development was stealing a song meant for Maddie, which had the effect of making her husband Avery (Jonathan Jackson) look like a saint.  And although plenty happened to Scarlett, including an affair with a sleazy musicvideo director, unwanted pregnancy and miscarriage in quick succession, her general impassivity and inability to make up her mind about anything (going out to a restaurant with Scarlett would be a nightmare) put her long-suffering boyfriend Gunnar (Sam Palladio) into a sympathetic light.  Even though the series added a new female regular, singer Jessie Caine (the appealing Kaitlin Doubleday), her character was so clearly constructed to be Deacon’s post-Rayna romance that it was less a matter of Will They Or Won’t They than Get A Room Already.  In short, Nashville became a soap about put-upon men, and whether that was deliberate, or whether it will continue, it was certainly different.

The Season 5 finale, with a script credited to Associate Producer Scott Saccoccio and direction by Khouri, was busy without being particularly eventful.  Much of the season had involved the travails of Highway 65, the independent music label Rayna had started and Deacon was running, and recently the strains caused by petulant billionaire investor Zach Welles (Cameron Scoggins).  It turned out, once Zach had turned off the electricity and drained the bank accounts in retaliation for Maddie’s refusal to turn her hit song into a mascara commercial, that all it took to calm him down was for Deacon to tell him what a lonely little boy he was, and that he had a home in Nashville.  (Did I mention that Herskovitz and Zwick were once the celebrated creators of thirtysomething?)  Juliette repented for her theft of Maddie’s song by forsaking her American Music Award nomination, which the show treated as though she were giving up a kidney.  (Maddie lost anyway, to Katy Perry, which may have been Perry’s best news of the last few months.)  Scarlett and Gunnar broke up, for the 558th time.  And Deacon and Jessie continued to share meaningful looks but no actual contact.  Apart from a bizarre moment when social media whiz Alyssa Greene (guest star Rachel Bilson) planted one on Deacon’s lips for no clear reason, there was little to draw one’s interest.

Nashville is still a well-oiled operation, with a very capable cast, and this season in particular Esten and Stella stepped up to the greater demands of their roles.  Some of the fun, though, has leaked out of the series.  The characters seemed tired, and (possibly in part due to budget constrictions) there was little glamour in its portrayal of country music.  Attempts to be “woke” with a brief interracial relationship for Maddie (including the new trope of a menacing traffic stop) and some lessons about the dangers of social media were more earnest than dramatically effective.  It’s not altogether clear what really interests Herskovitz and Zwick about the stories they’re telling.

As one would expect, the ratings on CMT (and quietly on Nick At Nite, where it airs an hour later) have been much lower than on ABC, but Nashville is still successful enough to have been renewed for a 6th season, which will begin in January 2018.  Perhaps with some time off, everyone will gather themselves together and figure out a revitalized vision for the veteran show.  This season, its songs were a little less tuneful.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."