But it is, at least in its pilot episode -- airing tonight, October 10th at 10pm -- an intriguingly complex portrait of a showbiz ecosystem in flux, centered around a main character whose pride is coming into conflict with economic and business realities, as well as the simple fact that you can't stay on top forever.
There is something piercingly American about the latter realization, as we as a country face a future in which we're no longer guaranteed a place as the dominant superpower, a face we'd prefer to giddily ignore. Rayna James (Connie Britton), who as her name suggests is a country music queen, isn't ignoring the fact that her album isn't selling so much as she's in denial -- with more support from the label, with a more commercial single, maybe, maybe...
"Nashville," which is the creation of writer Callie Khouri ("Thelma & Louise"), sets up a rivalry between Rayna and Juliette, but allows the characters to be less clear cut than they first appear. Juliette makes aggressive use of her looks and sexuality, getting allies on her side by getting into bed with them (her voice, alas, needs a little help from Auto-Tune), and she snips at Rayna from the start ("My mama was one of your biggest fans, she said she'd listen to you while I was still in her belly"). But Rayna's cherished image as a self-made woman isn't as authentic as she'd like to believe either -- as her wealthy, manipulative father Wyatt (Powers Boothe) tells her, he paid for her first album.
And while Rayna hates her father, the fact that he offers Teddy a job is allowed to be more knotty a problem for her than simply not wanted to be under his thumb -- she'd no longer have an excuse to have to work, and has to acknowledge that she wants to, that she loves the career she's been complaining about.
"Nashville" has a great character in Rayna, whose high ground is always slipping away, and a great actress to play her in Britton, who was one of the anchors of "Friday Night Lights." She's very good at showing a flash of steel underneath the sugar-sweet exterior, and at offering up glimpses of vulnerability as well, prodding her face in the mirror after that encounter with Juliette, and sitting alone, gathering her thoughts and tamping down her emotions before showing up as her husband's side as he announces he'll be running for mayor. Juliette is not quite so complex yet, though a phone call in which we see her mother explains a lot about her past and her determination to make things happen for herself. It's a exciting start for a series that's offered up an array of characters who feel like vivid, flawed human beings -- and none of them solve crimes.