By Anna Brand, Hollywood.com Staff
When buzz of a crazy new country music show ""filled with scandal and lies and lovers and alcohol"" (OK, and some singing, too) hit the media we were all expecting Country Strong on crack. It was going to be a chance to get Connie Britton back on the small screen doing what she does best: a hair flip with sass and a mean ""y'all."" Connie and Hayden Panettiere's hatred for one another was going to be the new it rivalry, mixed with drunk people and shady politics. It was going to be the sh*t.
And it started out with a loud glittery bang! It really did. The first episode covered all its bases: Love triangles, rehab stints, family dramz, sketchy politics, and ass-short skirts. It had just about every obnoxious country cliché squeezed into the premiere - enough to give it some real juicy promise. The pilot also laid the ground work for the big rivalry between Rayna James (Britton's seasoned country professional) and Juliette Barnes (Panettiere's Taylor Swift wannabe) that the show's ubiquitous promotional posters told us would be the lynchpin of all the crooning. After that though, it all just sort of floundered. Not even the mid-season finale (the new TV buzzword for the last episode of the year) delivered the climax we needed, or any climax at all. And so here we are, left severely blue-balled and waiting for someone to finish the job. Here's how they should have gotten us off:
The Rayna and Deacon Story
What Happened: Ray and Dea have a love thicker than Nicki Minaj's thighs. Years ago, before Ray married Teddy, the two of them were hot and heavy and ever since, he visits drug store after drug store, sniffing hair spray and wondering what if. There seems to be a gray area, too, during the time Ray's been married where the two of them maybe shared a kiss or boob grab or two. We're reminded week after week that the chemistry is still there, but nothing comes of it. We leave off with Ray and Dea both getting separate offers to go on tour - and face the same secret dilemma of whether to leave each other. Again.
What Should Have Happened: How about a kiss (with tongue!) for starters? I didn't need a full blown shag-in-the-Bluebird-bathroom, but something. Anything! I get Rayna James is ""the good one"" with ""good morals"" and ""good hair,"" but that would only make the illicit act that much more exciting. Remember Dawson's Creek where Dawson's wholesome, sweetheart of a mom had that shocking affair with her co-anchor and he found out? No? Well, that happened in the first episode and it immediately gave the show some slutty flavor. A blow-out fight between Rayna and Teddy that revealed the details of her intimate relationship with Dea would have sufficed, but no. All we got were hints at the past and that one time she thought about his naked body in a dream. Not cool.
The Scarlett-Gunnar-Avery Story
What Happened: This ""love triangle"" was one big yawn. Basically, Scarlett and Avery were a couple, until Avery's jealousy and '90s choker necklace got in the way and they ended it. Scarlett and Gunnar both work at the Bluebird waiting tables with no real future until we discover that TA-DA! Scar's ""poems"" are just like song lyrics and you know what? She can sing, too! What are the odds? So, she and Gunnar start singing together at the Bluebird and decided to team up for some sketchy record label deal and of course fall in love. Gunnar and Avery throw some punches and eventually, Gunnar confesses his love to Scar and lands a sloppy kiss on her delusional mouth.
What Should Have Happened: Gunnar kissing Scarlett at the end of the episode was fantastic. They gave him some balls and let him run with it. Unfortunately, Scarlett is still the worst actress on TV history and can't formulate a sentence that doesn't sound both out of breath and restricted by gross amounts of saliva (maybe it's because her lips are trapped in a perma-pout). Their kiss lasted all of 4 seconds before she totally wigs out and backs away like she's just been attacked by Old Man Watty White. The two were in an empty Bluebird when this happened, which could have made for a perfect throw-girl-aggressively-on-table-and-make-out scene. Dear Lord, let us please see Scar's wild side sometime soon.
The Teddy and Peggy Story
What Happened: Teddy and Peggy are connected by some bizarre money smuggling incident from years ago. He needed money, so she helped him steal from the bank. They've kept this secret for ages, not even telling their spouses, but for some reason, Peggy reappears during Teddy's Mayoral campaign and stirs the pot. The meet on an abandoned dock in the middle of the night because they are begging to get caught, share some PG hugs and shoulder pats, get photographed, and basically make some gossip bloggers very happy to publish the pictures. Peggy runs over to find Teddy in a panic, but he doesn't have the energy for her games so he dismisses the poor girl. She's then found being rolled out to an ambulance after reportedly overdosing on pain killers. Womp womp. No one cares.
What Should Have Happened: Where is the illegitimate child, I ask! This is prime. Strange woman shows up for literally the least sexiest reason of all time: money laundering. Give me a break, will you? The saddest part of this wasted opportunity is that Peggy seemed like the perfect freak. The kind of freak that would walk around in dominatrix gear under her pants suit and give BJs in a crowded parking lot. She was totally off her rocker - and that's why she should have revealed that she has 25 children (or one, how about just one?) and Teddy is the father. Damn, that'd be good. This would have given a reason to run back to Deacon before Teddy actually took the paternity test and discovered that of course he's not the father. Peggy is a psycho. Remember?
The Lamar Story
What Happened: Lamar is Rayna's big shot father, the one who runs the political world of Nashville and has boat loads of money. He's the one that convinces Teddy to run for mayor and sucks the life out of everyone who comes in contact with him. He is the evil one. He has spats with Rayna and schemes with Teddy to protect all the lies he's told to everyone - ultimately putting him before his own daughter. He has gray hair and he's balding.
What Should Have Happened: First of all, a toupee. After that, how about a family secret or two to keep us interested? OK, so we find out that Lamar cheated on Rayna's mom or her mom cheated on him at one point. But so what? We don't know their mother at all. We've never even met her. Who the hell cares? There needed to be another huge family reveal that proved why Rayna was so angry at her father, why she would never ask him for money and why her weird sister follows him around like he's the King of Sonic. Maybe he made her get an abortion? Maybe he stole money from her tour? Maybe he's been wearing a mask and it's actually been Deacon this whole time? Any of those would have done it.
The Rayna and Juliette Story
What Happened: This was supposed to be the show's bread and butter. ABC's own Gwyneth Paltrow-Leighton Meester Country Strong-esque war. When they first met, the rivalry was hotter than when Joseph Gorden-Levitt finally took off his shirt. They were like two sexy vixens going after each other and after the same man: Deacon. Rayna went to her old pal's home one day talking smack about the little slore and we see that Juliette is actually tangled in his sheets upstairs at that very moment, soaking her words (and Dea's sweat) all in. After that, the two kind of go their separate ways. Ray deals with her d-bag husband while J bangs some other randos and struggles with her strung out mom who made her eat dry pancake mix once. It's not until the end when Ray and J are forced to take the stage together. After a few lame digs at each other (and by lame it was essentially Ray stating that Juliette is just too young to be taken seriously on such a big stage which is, um, true), the two find a way to work it out. Yawn. Take the stage in tight dresses and sway together like it's one big f*cking Lifetime special. Yawn. Not only is their rivalry not even a rivalry, but now they're both probably going to go on tour together and Ray is going to become her new ""mom"" or something. A mom who would make her real pancakes.
What Should Have Happened: Duh. A cat fight! Where were those claws that ABC promised? Didn't they air Dynasty all those years ago? Where was all the sh*t talking and scandal and man-stealing? It's like Rayna didn't even care that Juliette totally boned her soulmate. Not only did she not care, but she sang with her and held her arm and swayed in slow motion. Wouldn't a good ole' bitch-slapping be nice? A little hair pulling? Something that warranted a police intervention, at the very least? This was supposed to be the battle of the season and not only wasn't it a battle, it was barely even a tiff.
[Image Credit: ABC]
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