Nashville became the only ABC freshman drama to get a renewal after spending most of the spring on the bubble. And now that Season 2 is a go, the show will undergo some changes. For now, they appear to be limited to the production/post-production areas. Line producer Loucas George, who ran the operation on the ground in Nashville, where the series is filmed, announced on Twitter shortly after the renewal 10 days ago that his contract had not been renewed. That also applies to his team, including production supervisor Don Bensko, as the new line producer is expected to bring in his/her crew.
Changes on Nashville were expected following a rocky freshman season, with the show going through growing pains and struggling with its creative direction as well as the ratings. I’ve reported accounts of tension between co-producers ABC Studios and Lionsgate and other behind-the-scene issues, including star Connie Britton being unhappy with the experience. In an editorial for The Santa Clarita News, Bensko’s wife Micaela, lamenting the decision not to pick up her husband’s option, spoke about “14-20 hour days with an unrelenting schedule due to issues beyond their control” and “a string of endless and exhausting shoot days” as “a string of delayed scripts and tripping storylines kept everyone on edge.” She also recounted an on-set accident, in which “one of our crew lost his footing while rigging for a huge arena shoot at The Bridgestone. He fell twenty feet and almost died.”
Part of the issue has been the fact that Nashville is filmed in Nashville while the show’s writers as well as producers and studio executives are in Los Angeles. But the location helps Nashville stay authentic, and Lionsgate TV and ABC Studios are lobbying the state of Tennessee for better tax incentive terms. I hear the intention is to keep the production in Nashville but the economics will factor into the final decision.
Creatively, most problems seems to have been resolved, and Dee Johnson is expected to continue as showrunner on the series created by Oscar winner Callie Khouri. In addition to the solid response from critics (Britton is a major awards contender), Nashville draws important young viewers and also generates sizable revenue from digital music downloads.
UPDATE SATURDAY 7:40 PM: It’s official, the deal has closed and The Neighbors has been renewed for next season.
PREVIOUS FRIDAY PM: Two members of ABC‘s freshman class, drama Nashville and … Read More »
At the networks’ upfront presentations, they usually tout their freshman successes. Last year, ABC brought out onstage the casts of breakout freshman dramas Once Upon A Time and Revenge, while CBS built its presentation around 2 Broke Girls. This year, ABC, which normally brings only 1-2 casts to the upfronts, is going with the cast of sophomore Scandal (plus veteran Modern Family, whose trip is paid for by USA as the cable network will showcase the comedy’s syndication rollout). Scandal‘s presence is completely justified as the Shonda Rhimes drama is that rare show that made the leap from an inauspicious start with a 7-episode run at the very end of last season to a bona fide success and a pop culture fixture in Year 2.
But its presence also underlines the fact that, unlike last season, ABC does not have a single breakout freshman series that has been a slam dunk for renewal. NBC has Revolution, CBS has Elementary, Fox has The Following, and the CW has Arrow — all of which received early pickups. ABC is heading into its renewal decisions tomorrow with its entire freshman class on the bubble. The one first-year show that appears most likely to get the nod is country drama Nashville. With a great pedigree, creator Callie Khouri and star Connie Britton, Nashville launched to critical praise and OK ratings. But it’s had a rocky freshman season, with the show going through growing pains and struggling with its creative direction as well as the ratings. I’ve heard accounts of tension between co-producers ABC Studios and Lionsgate and other behind-the-scene issues, including star Britton being unhappy with the experience. But in the end, most problems seem to have been resolved, and Nashville, which at one point looked unlikely to continue, now likely will be on the schedule next season. In addition to the solid response from critics (Britton is a major awards contender), Nashville draws important young viewers and also generates sizable revenue from digital music downloads. The only other freshman ABC drama that is still alive, Red Widow, is not expected to come back.
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Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
Today’s PaleyFest panel on ABC’s freshman drama Nashville raised questions appropriate for a soap opera: When the show returns on March 27, what heat will develop between Connie Britton’s Rayna James and Charles Esten’s Deacon Claybourne? And when (if ever) will Deacon find out he’s really the father of Rayna’s daughter Maddie? Plus a question from the audience: As per news reports, are the stars of the country music series planning to go on a concert tour? The show’s creator/executive producer Callie Khouri joked: “We might go on vacation.” Added Esten: “I know there’s talk about it, but it’s in vague stages, it would make sense to anybody on some level, but there’s nothing very concrete about it.” Esten added that he hoped that the man in charge of the music for Nashville — T Bone Burnett, who is also Khouri’s husband, would be an integral part of the venture. “I would say again that if it ever happened in any form that T Bone would have his warm and loving arms around it and make it all that it could be”. Read More »
Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor
Hayden Panettiere, 23, began her career as a child actor on the soaps One Life to Live and Guiding Light, and met an untimely death as Kirby Reed in Scream 4. But she is perhaps best known as Claire Bennet, the high-school cheerleader with supernatural powers on NBC’s Heroes. She’s trying to change that girl-next-door image in ABC’s Nashville, portraying ambitious, conniving country-pop diva Juliette Barnes, youthful nemesis of old-school country star Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton). Apparently the catfight chemistry is working: ABC recently handed the freshman series created by Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise) a full-season order. And both Panettiere and Britton scored big at the Golden Globe nominations: Panettiere netted a nom for best supporting actress in a TV series, miniseries, or motion picture, and Britton is up for best actress in a TV drama.
AwardsLine: This role was a lot to take on with singing. What led you to accept the part of Juliette?
Hayden Panettiere: I love the fact that this character that Callie Khouri created is so multidimensional; there’s so many layers to her. But this was a big deal for me because I really wanted to break away from my character in Heroes. I’m so deeply blessed that I got to play that character, don’t get me wrong, but I knew after that character it would be an uphill battle for people to see me as anything besides the all-American cheerleader. Read More »
Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor
Connie Britton, 45, is a multiple Emmy Award nominee for her roles on Friday Night Lights and American Horror Story. But during one of her typical 16-hour workdays for ABC’s freshman drama Nashville, she says of her first Golden Globe nomination—for best actress in a TV drama series—that it never gets old: “I’m far from jaded about awards nominations.” Britton shares the honor with costar and fellow Golden Globe nominee Hayden Panettiere, 23, and talks about why their onscreen duet seems to work.
AwardsLine: What is the appeal of the uneasy relationship between your character, Rayna Jaymes, and her young competitor, Hayden Panettiere’s Juliette Barnes?
Connie Britton: I was talking to (Nashville creator) Callie Khouri last night, and we were both talking about just how much fun it is, particularly now that Hayden’s character and my character are really engaging. What’s funny to me is, in the first five or six episodes, we didn’t really engage that much. There is something really interesting about these two women in very different places in their lives who are fighting for their lives in different ways.
AwardsLine: We hear stories about actors who go to unusual lengths to stay in character on set—fellow Golden Globe nominee Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln is a good example. What about you two? Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Kimberly Williams-Paisley is poised to make her guest-starring stint on ABC’s new drama Nashville permanent. The According To Jim alumna in August signed on for a multi-episode arc on the soap set against the backdrop of the Nashville music scene. She ended up appearing in six of the original 13 episodes of the freshman drama, which was recently given a full-season pickup. Now she is set to appear in at least three episodes of Nashville‘s back nine with an option to become a series regular in Season 2 if the show is renewed. Read More »
NBC’s attempt to improve its fortunes on Wednesday by replacing underperforming (and already cancelled) newbie Animal Practice with sophomore Whitney is not working, at least not from the get go. In its second season premiere last night, Whitney (1.4/4 in adults 18-49) matched the debut in the Wednesday 8 PM slot of its predecessor Animal Practice. It was down 30% from Whitney‘s debut in the time period last spring and tied as its series low. Guys With Kids (1.3/4), the only Wednesday series to still be awaiting a decision on a back order, was flat with two weeks ago and also tied as a series low. Law & Order: SVU (1.6/4) was down 6% from two weeks ago, and it too tied its series low. After the big ratings jump last week when it followed an original Voice, newly picked up Chicago Fire (1.6/5) retreated 27% for a net gain of .1 vs. its original two weeks ago. But it held onto 100% of its lead-in, something no other 10 PM rookie drama has been able to do this season.
The other new Wednesday 10 PM drama that received a full-season order over the past week was ABC’s Nashville (1.8/5), which reversed its ratings downtrend last week with a .2 uptick. But the rise was short-lived as the soap dropped .2 last night to return to the series low level of two weeks ago. The entire ABC Wednesday lineup was in negative territory last night. The Middle (2.5/8) was down 7%; The Neighbors (1.9/5) down 10% to tie its series low; Modern Family (4.6/12) down 4% and Suburgatory (2.4/6), which continues its pendulum swings, down 17% from last week’s season high to tie its season low. Read More »
ABC has handed out its second full-season order to a freshman show this season, drama Nashville, starring Connie Britton. The soap, created by Callie Khouri, was one of the best reviewed new shows this fall. It was a late starter, held back two weeks because of presidential debate coverage. Nashville has been soft in the ratings but had an 11% ratings uptick last week to a 2.0 in adults 18-49 rating. The show went through growing pains, including a showrunner change, with Dee Johnson replacing Jim Parriott. Read More »
The Oscar-winning screenwriter of Thelma And Louise and director of The Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood has one of the rare critical hits of this fall TV season, Nashville. Callie Khouri talked to Salon recently about how she went from not wanting to write for TV to realizing that telling stories about women is more respected on the small screen:
I’m just liking TV so much more than features right now, just in terms of what you can get made… I don’t think any studio — it was a long shot at the time – but I don’t think any studio in a million years would make Thelma And Louise right now. But there’s so many other kinds of movies they won’t make right now.
People who make TV also seem much more comfortable making shows for women than people making movies do. Because you’re allowed. You’re allowed to make things for women on television and … you don’t have to go through the humiliation of having made something directed at women. There it’s just accepted, whereas if it’s a feature, it’s like “So, talk to me about chick flicks.”
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EXCLUSIVE: According To Jim alumna Kimberly Williams-Paisley is returning to ABC with a multi-episode arc on the network’s new drama series Nashville, a family soap set against the backdrop of the Nashville music scene that follows one star at … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: There is a change at the helm of ABC’s high-profile new drama Nashville. Veteran showrunner Dee Johnson has come on board as executive producer/showrunner, replacing Jim Parriott. Johnson will serve as an executive producer alongside series’ creator … Read More »
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TV coverage.
Oscar-winning Thelma And Louise screenwriter Callie Khouri found herself this morning at TCA on a panel promoting the new ABC serialized ensemble drama Nashville starring Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere that might best be described as “Dallas in Tennessee.” Khouri is an executive producer of the new series. And if it seemed weird that such an esteemed feature scribe (who also wrote Something To Talk About and Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood) would be producing her first series for TV, her partner on the project is equally odd: R.J. Cutler, known primarily for his unscripted shows and whose past projects have included the likes of Flip That House and Greatest American Dog. Khouri admitted this kind of project is brand new for her but that she’s having a blast doing it. “I’m actually loving it because with a feature, you do it and it’s over”, she said. “But I’m getting to sit with some absolutely incredible writers and fan out stories that go on for a long time. And so I can plan for characters to go through things and go through changes that you would never be able to do in a feature film, because you cover such a long period of time. And I love that. It’s so much fun. It’s writing at a much faster pace than I’m used to, but that’s the only thing I’m having trouble with. Everything else about it is just so inspiring, to be able to take each character on a long journey and see them change, see them grow and put them through trial by fire.” Read More »