Empty9-10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14
You know pretty much immediately that "Nashville" doesn't look like any other reality show, save for one: "Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County." This is not accidental, as it comes from the same creator/executive producer team who make that particular show, Gary and Julie Auerbach. This means lots of impossibly beautiful, mostly blond-haired young men and women carrying pretty much zero in the way of body fat percentage.
It's also shot way more like a drama series than an unscripted one: lots of soft-focus camera interludes that appear to accidentally eavesdrop on intimate conversations where love and fear and hope and longing are professed with startling regularity. It makes for bracing -- though obviously not necessarily more honest -- docu-soap viewing.
But it's clear that this new Fox original series has its class act together as it follows singers both on the verge of stardom and just starting out as they chase their dreams in the capital of country music.
Another thing that separates the show from the oft-dopey competition is the fact nearly everyone here is really, really good. They sing with confidence and harmony while simultaneously looking like a million bucks (actually, more like $2 million). There are no wincing judges to endure or record contract to pursue, either.
"Nashville" is more about the process than the profits, the raging hormones than the rating assessments of viewers. That makes it perhaps both more enticing and prone to story-line management by the producers. It feels more like a scripted drama no doubt because it is. So labeling something like this as "reality" might be a case of deluding ourselves, though if you take the goings-on at face value, it's loads of hyperventilating (if infinitely shallow) fun.
We follow eight singers in their quest for stardom in Music City along with at least one nonsinger who simply wants to get laid -- a lot. The latter would be a fellow named Clint Moseley, an exec with his daddy's jet sales company who finds success by tossing out lame pickup lines like, "You may just be the purdiest thing I ever laid eyes on." (Hey, this is Tennessee; that stuff apparently works.) The singers and songwriters include freshly signed, hunky Sony BMG artist Chuck Wicks (seen with his behind-the-scenes business teammates); Rachel Bradshaw, the emotional daughter of Hall of Fame quarterback and Fox Sports host Terry Bradshaw; Matt Jenkins, looking to catch on with a new record label after having just been dropped by another; Sarah Gunsolus, who hopes to network her way to the top in Nashville; low-key singer-songwriters Lindsey Hager, Jeff Allen and Erica Hoyt; and Mika Combs, a comely Kentucky native who might not be quite as naive as she appears to be.
The heat gets turned up on everybody's determination to succeed early on in the "Nashville" opener, where it's clear that we'll be assured there is more to each of these talented young thoroughbreds than meets the eye and ear.
The Auerbachs frame the show as almost a small-town population unto itself, one driven by a super-artsy zeitgeist. What we can appreciate from the outset is that there are no apologies made, or pretenses established, for the show trying to be anything except the lily-white fantasy that it is: not a shred of racial, ethnic or class diversity, just good ol' guys and gals whose beaming smiles mask a restless (and potentially backstabbing) soul. We'll see whether that's good enough to go toe-to-toe with another slice of heartland pie, NBC's critically beloved "Friday Night Lights."
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Executive producers: Gary Auerbach, Julie Auerbach, Liz Bronstein, Tina Gazzerro, Hans Tobeason
Creators: Gary Auerbach, Julie Auerbach
Co-executive producer: Steve Krueger
Supervising producers: Gil Lopez, Drew Brown, Alycia Rossiter
Producers: Andrew Payne, George Plamondon, Cherisse Corbin, Charlie Newton
Field producers: Adair Kaiser, Courtney Paulson, Aaron Sandler
Directors of photography: Drew Thomas, Ali Moghadas
Lead editor: Matthew Williams
Supervising music producer: Jon Ernst
Sound mixer: Roy Clary
Casting: Paul Boese, Tanya Green, Cast-a-Date