Just before Nashville premiered on ABC, I praised it for being “big and brassy,” a surprising reminder of “just what the traditional big four networks excel at in the first place.” [Auto-disclosure: ABC and Grantland are both owned by Disney.] Now, four weeks later, I’ve returned to praise it again for exactly opposite reasons. It turns out, Nashville, just like Connie Britton’s previous, y'all-spattered series, is only superficially soap-operatic. Yes, there are backroom power grabs, cuckoldry both real and desperately desired, and enough smoldering glances from behind microphones to slow-roast a brisket. But creator Callie Khouri seems far more interested in the deep album cuts than in those feints toward the pop charts. At its best, Nashville privileges smaller, more intimate moments: an addict’s pained confession to a sponsor, a lonely dinner of mac and cheese, the thin line between grudging support and destructive jealousy. The show remains the best of the fall season. Emotional and observant, it’s considerably better, actually, than the twangy indulgence I had expected from the excellent pilot, filled as it was with catty boot-stomping at the Grand Ole Opry. But the big ratings I also predicted have likewise not materialized — the show has shed over 3 million viewers since its premiere, though it ticked up slightly last night — which is a tremendous shame.
All great artists have their signature tools. For Picasso it was the paintbrush. For E.L. James, it’s the riding crop. And for Connie Britton, it’s “y’all.” Without it, the Boston-born Britton is a fine actress, plain-spoken and sharp. But when handed the simple syllable, she is transformed: Her voice softens even as her face toughens, her luminous eyes go wide, caught crinkling somewhere between wonder and bemusement. As Tami Taylor on Friday Night Lights — perennially patient wife to Kyle Chandler’s Coach and adoptive mother to everyone in West Texas — Britton was a revelation: sweet as tea and stronger than a linebacker; a dab of butter on a mountain of grit. For many actors, the demands of an unfamiliar accent can be restrictive as a latex bodysuit, but Britton comes alive the further South she travels. Before she could run, she had to learn to drawl.
When Scream 4 opened last spring, it was less a film than a referendum ... and audiences voted no. The film grossed just $40 million, seemingly dooming the franchise. Fortunately for Ghostface and Sydney and Gale and Dewey and whoever else survived Scream 4 — I saw it opening night, and I can't remember much other than Hayden Panettiere's weird mumsy haircut — the franchise will survive, but not, for the moment, on the big screen: MTV is adapting it as a TV series.
Where In the World Is Carmen Sandiego? has been optioned by Walden Media as a live-action adaptation for Jennifer Lopez to co-produce and possibly star in. In the new version, top detective Sandiego goes on the run as an alleged thief, and has to be tracked down by her former partner. This is a good time to point out that one fun thing to do, when people ask you what kind of music you like, is to just say, “Rockapella.” Grade: A- [Deadline]