2ND UPDATE, 5:09 PM: The newly renewed ABC series will continue to film in its namesake city after all. Nashville will receive a combined $8 million incentive package from the state of Tennessee, Metro Nashville and other local groups for production of the musical drama’s third season. The package is lower than the Season 2 incentives — which totaled $13.25 million, including $12 million from the state — but 33% more than the $6 million the state had offered for the 2014-15 season.
Related: ABC’s ‘Nashville’ Renewed For Third Season
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After spending the day crunching numbers and trying to work with the reduced tax incentives in Tennessee, ABC has renewed country music drama Nashville, from Lionsgate TV and ABC Studios, for a 22-episode third season. Nashville is an expensive drama with big-ticket talent like Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere. While it has developed a devoted following and has been a solid DVR performer, Nashville‘s ratings have been modest. That paired with Tennessee’s vote to cut by two-thirds the tax benefits previously set aside for the show, which films in Nashville, gave Lionsgate and ABC Studios a difficult time, trying to make the show work financially. I hear the plan is to keep the show in Nashville contingent on the state getting the tax incentives at a proper level.
First Lady Michelle Obama will play herself in a cameo appearance on ABC‘s country music drama Nashville on May 7, an episode titled “All Or Nothing With Me” that is set at the Fort Campbell Army base. This comes a couple months after she was set for a cameo on the season finale of Parks And Recreation on April 24, that appearance to promote her “Let’s Move” program targeting child obesity.
Aside from numerous late-night appearances and docu-series, Obama has appeared in only a couple scripted series including Sesame Street in 2009 and in a cameo on Nickelodeon’s iCarly in 2012. Obama taped the iCarly appearance in June 2011 while in LA to promote a series of PSAs targeting her “Joining Forces” initiative, designed to raise awareness of military families; iCarly‘s lead character was the daughter of a U.S. service member stationed overseas. That plan was unveiled at the WGA Theatre during a panel sponsored by the Hollywood guilds (and moderated by JJ Abrams) designed to create a dialogue among film and TV folks about ways to share those families’ stories. The Nashville appearance would seem to jibe with that initiative: ABC says the episode’s storyline involves Reyna (Connie Britton) organizing of a charity concert on the Army base after finding out Luke (Will Chase) has been injured in Afghanistan, cutting short his tour. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Nashville‘s Rayna James is gaining a full-time friend and a full-time foe for next season. Recurring players Oliver Hudson and Will Chase are being promoted to regulars for Season 3, contingent on the ABC series getting a renewal, something considered likely as most of the network’s freshman dramas have struggled mightily this season. Hudson, who joined Nashville in the second episode of this season, plays arrogant Edgehill label head Jeff Fordham. Chase, who was introduced in Episode 5, plays Luke Wheeler, a country superstar and Rayna’s (Connie Britton) current significant. Hudson is repped by ICM Partners, Management 360 and Ziffren; Chase is with Gersh and AC Management.
Related: 2014 ABC Pilots
Disney/ABC Television Group has inked an exclusive multi-year licensing agreement with Hulu Plus for SVOD rights to the drama series. Beginning now, all past Nashville episodes and clips are available on the subscription service. Currently in its second season, Nashville, produced by Lionsgate, ABC Studios and Opry Entertainment, stars Connie Britton as music legend Rayna Jaymes and Hayden Panettiere as sassy up-and-comer Juliette Barnes. Cast also features Charles Esten, Eric Close, Clare Bowen, Jonathan Jackson, Sam Palladio, Chris Carmack, Lennon Stella and Maisy Stella. Dee Johnson, R.J. Cutler, Callie Khouri and Steve Buchanan executive produce.
ABC‘s Nashville started as a family soap set against the backdrop of the Nashville music scene that followed one star at her peak, Rayna (Connie Britton), and one on the rise, Juliette (Hayden Panettiere). The country music business was as major part of the tapestry of the show as the twists and turns in the characters’ personal relationship. But then gradually over the first season of the show, which had one of the strongest launches in fall 2012, the soapy content started to rise, a trend that continued this season when the series also moved away from the Rayna-Juliette storyline that was at the heart of the show early on to focus on peripheral characters. (Word is that there will be a course correction in the second half of the season, with Rayna and Juliette’s relationship, plus Chip Esten’s Deacon, taking center stage again.) There have been rumors about pressure from ABC to make the show soapier, with former Nashville music producer T Bone Burnett fanning flames last fall with comments in an interview about “a knockdown, bloody, drag-out fight” behind the scenes over making music drama versus soap opera, and that star Britton too wasn’t too fond of the show’s creative direction.
Related: ABC’s ‘Nashville’ Undergoes Production Changes Heading Into Second Season
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Oliver Hudson has been tapped for a major recurring role on the upcoming second season of ABC‘s Nashville. The Rules Of Engagement alum will play Jeff, a charming, audacious, take-no-prisoners businessman who promises to shake things up in Nashville. Hudson, repped by ICM Partners and Management 360, started his TV career on another drama with music elements, as the star of the WB’s My Guide To Becoming A Rock Star. His sister Kate recently recurred on another hourlong music-driven series, Fox’s Glee.
Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor.
What two popular TV show titles are least likely to occur in the same sentence? There is no single answer, but British producer Gareth Neame was decidedly taken aback when a family member came up with this combo: “We used to have Dallas. Now we have Downton.” Downton is, of course, the PBS Masterpiece hit Downton Abbey, the sprawling saga of the fabulously wealthy Crawley family, unfolding at the family’s English country estate. And Dallas is, well Dallas (1978-1991) CBS’ soapy saga of Texas oil baron J.R Ewing, set on the lavish Southfork Ranch. While the worlds of feathered bonnets and 10-gallon hats couldn’t seem more different, Downton executive producer Neame says the comparison confirmed what he’d been thinking when he proposed the series to creator-writer Julian Fellowes: Once again, there is room for the nighttime soap on the TV landscape.
As in the era of Dallas—which spawned Dynasty, Falcon Crest and Knots Landing—the primetime soap has surged in popularity with viewers. Along with the crown jewel Downton Abbey, witness the appearance of new and glamorous multigenerational sagas including ABC’s Nashville and Revenge. To prove the point, there’s even
a new Dallas on TNT, with some of the original stars
including Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy (J.R.’s “good” brother Bobby) returning to ruin each other’s lives for
a new generation of viewers.
Related: ‘Downton Abbey’ Season 4 To Bow Jan. 5
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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 … Read More »
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 comedy The Neighbors, will make it to a second season. The deal is not quite done for the Dan Fogelman comedy The Neighbors but is expected to close. Sophomores fared better, with four, red-hot Scandal, Open Upon A Time, Revenge and Last Man Standing all getting third season renewals. They’re joined by veterans Modern Family, The Middle, Grey’s Anatomy and Castle. ABC is expected to renew unscripted staples Shark Tank, Dancing With The Stars and The Bachelor on Monday.
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 »