TV review and sneak peek: ABC’s “Nashville” a solid soap

I’ve only seen one episode of “Nashville,” embedded above, but I wanted to offer a few first impressions, as I did with the comedy pilots last month. Set in the eponymous country music capital, “Nashville” tells the story of aging country music star Rayna Jaymes (the wonderful Connie Britton of “Friday Night Lights”) and Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere, reasonably successful at mixing vulnerability with bitchiness), the hot young idol impeding on Rayna’s territory. Also in the mix are Rayna’s father (Powers Boothe, typically great) luring her long-sidelined husband (Eric Close) into a political career, a young couple (Clare Bowen and Jonathan Jackson) looking to break into the music industry, Juliette’s estranged drug addicted mother (Sylvia Jefferies), various secret sexual encounters, allusions to adultery, betrayal, financial woes, etc., etc.

Obviously there’s a lot going on here–probably too much. In its attempt to introduce each of these plot strands, the “Nashville” pilot feels jammed together and overstuffed, but also appealingly confident. The storylines range from mildly interesting to genuinely compelling, lending to the show’s manic pacing but making it all the more frustrating when the screenplay shifts so frequently and abruptly between stories. Overall, it’s a good problem to have as the “Nashville” writers have more than enough material going forward–I don’t foresee the series running out of steam too quickly, as primetime soap operas are wont to do.

Britton and Boothe give “Nashville” its spark, elevating their scenes from soapy fun to engaging drama. The rest of the cast proves reasonably competent, featuring no immediately apparent weak links. Panettiere’s co-lead performance may be shallow, but she accomplishes all she needs for the role to function. That “Nashville” works for me despite my aversion to country music speaks to its multi-layered successes. The primetime soap opera can be among television’s most addictive genres and I envision myself sticking with “Nashville” for as long as it maintains the frothy energy on display in its pilot. “Nashville” premieres Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 10/9 central on ABC. Grade: B+

Do you agree? Watch the video above and respond in the comments.