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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

DVD Review: Nashville

Sex, backstabbing, romance. Oh, and some country music. This is the ABC series Nashville, and season one is now on DVD.

Nashville stars Connie Britton as Rayna James, a seasoned country music star; Eric Close as Teddy Conrad, her politically ambitious (and perhaps ethically dubious) husband; Powers Booth as Lamar Wyatt, James' manipulative power broker father; Hayden Panatierre (Heroes) as Juliette Barnes, the country equivalent to Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera after her first major success; Clare Bowen as the innocent up and comer Scarlett O'Conner; and Charles (Chip) Esten (Whose Line is it Anyway?) as Deacon Clayborne, Scarlett's uncle and James' old flame and current band director, along with many others in the ensemble cast.

Is this set or the actual Bluebird? 
The story is a soap opera, but with the benefit of primetime production values and schedules. The show is shot in Nashville, in such locations as The Grand Ole Opry, The Bluebird Cafe, and other authentic locations around the country musical capital. Of course, some of them are also recreated on a sound stage, for example The Bluebird, but there are apparently also scenes shot at the actual locations. It appears that the entire series is shot in the Tennessee capital city, including the sound stage work.

The show itself is well produced, with a good balance between story scenes and actual performances. It seems also that all of the actors in the show do their own singing, which is pretty impressive. Of note is Charles Esten, who many may recognize from his improvised comedy work on Whose Line Is It Anyway?. Esten does an excellent job portraying the "tortured musician in love with a married woman who he also works for and used to have a relationship with before he ruined it". You know, that old chestnut. He really shows his range with this role, and it's gratifying to see.

The plot (and there's a lot of it, after all, this is a soap), involves the powerful women manipulating poor Deacon; relationships coming together and exploding; political power struggles between James' father, her husband, and her friend Coleman Carlisle (Robert Wisdom); and the challenge of dealing with fame in a big little town like Nashville, TN. Overall, the show is engaging, well paced, sexy, and, if you like country music, a joy to listen to.

Guess what? Neither of these actors
are American.
The DVD is typical fare for this kind of a show. There are the obligatory soon to be outdated ads for other shows at the top of disc 1, which thankfully can be skipped; the standard bonus features, like a featurette about shooting in Nashville, a short blooper reel, BTS about some of the songs used in the show, and deleted scenes; and minimal set-up options of Dolby sound and French or English subtitles.
Notable is another featurette of the Stellas, real life sisters who play the daughters of Rayna James and Teddy Conrad. They're adorable, seem to get along pretty well, and are another pair of actual singers who get a chance to perform in the series as well.

As someone who has authored and designed DVDs in the past, I wanted to note how well done the graphics are on this DVD. There's nothing special about the menu structure, but the artist did a very nice job with the overlays and button graphics for this, as well as choosing a very good color palette.

Hello. I'm your DVD. Please allow
me to inspect your house.
There is one other thing: at the beginning of any home video, there is always an FBI warning, letting you know how much trouble you'll get into if you make copies of the DVD, etc. This is the first time I've noticed that this screen also has the Homeland Security shield on it. What's more, apparently the official seal wasn't sufficient; these DVDs are apparently agents of the department. At least, that's what the shield says. It was weird to see.

Overall, then, if you haven't seen Nashville, or have but want to have a hard copy to keep, this DVD is very good if not groundbreaking. Notably absent were any commentary tracks, which for me is the one draw to getting a DVD rather than just waiting for a series to be available on streaming. Still, this is a high quality set for a high quality series.

Nashville: The Complete First Season
ABC Studios

8 out of 10 bites

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