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Nashville, Dancing on the Edge, Album Showdown: This week's TV review

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'Nashville' cast photo

© Channel 4 / Lionsgate


Things I find more grating than country music. The One Show. The music of Michael Buble. Louis Walsh. And that's probably about it. To be brutally honest, I haven't been much looking forward to Nashville, a new critically-hyped US drama which centres around the world or rhinestones, Stetsons and boot-tapping darn' tootin' tunes.

However, if you're like me and you'd rather have a shave with a cheese grater than listen to an album of 'I miss my man' jaunty ditties, don't rule out this latest slice of soapy drama. There's plenty working in its favour and *whisper it* even the music wasn't that bad.

I'd watch nearly anything with Connie 'y'all' Britton in it and the Friday Night Lights alum was the main hook for me as ageing country singer Rayna Jaymes. Even when navigating some of the pilot episode's worst lines and clichés, she brought some likeability to the fading star who is battling with both her label and to keep the spark alive in her marriage.

The big threat to Rayna is flirty, curvy and, judging from this pilot, rather dirty Juliette Turner, played by 'that cheerleader from Heroes' Hayden Panettiere. The hottest new thing in country music, Juliette has mastered the art of auto-tune and understands the power of dropping her knickers to get what she wants. She also had a drug addict mum who wants some money. So don't be too mean about her.

Aside from Rayna and Juliette's rivalry, there was a slightly less interesting sub-plot with Gunnar (Sam Palladio) and Scarlett (Clare Bowen), who close the episode with a 'If I Didn't Know Better' duet at the Bluebird Café that encapsulates their timid romantic advances. Hopefully they'll just quit the preamble and get it on next week and the duo can start warbling about how great they are in bed together.

Like Britton's previous work on the brilliant American Football weep-fest Friday Night Lights, the series will live or die on people's ability to get over the central subject matter. If people can get over the images of Dolly Parton and barn-dancing, they may find a pumping healthy heart at the centre of Nashville.

Nashville continues in a late-night slot on Thursdays on More4

Dancing on the Edge: Jessie (ANGEL COULBY)

© BBC / Ruby Film & TV


You'll have to come back next week to get my final verdict on Dancing on the Edge because at the moment my rear end is stuck right in the middle of the fence.

The first two parts of Stephen Poliakoff's bold new jazz swinging 1930s drama were occasionally brilliant, but equally, occasionally plodded.

It teased us for over two hours with menace, sinister lingering shots of John Goodman and a brilliant lead performance from Chiwetel Ejiofor. But even at the end of episode two, where Ejiofor's jazz band leader Louis Lester found himself caught up in the middle of a bloody and messy tragedy with one of his singers, I still had niggling doubts that the final three parts may leave me underwhelmed.

Poliakoff based his tale loosely on the Duke Ellington band and their Royal connections and his creation centres on the fictional Louis Lester Band. With the help of Music Express journo and aspiring industry mogul Stanley Mitchell, the group find themselves ingratiated into the 1930s aristocracy and soon the group have even the most stiff and snooty sorts swinging like hip cats.

Behind the jazz hands, trumpet tooting in the rain and obvious talking points of race and immigration, there's a plot brewing. John Goodman's Masterson, a man of great wealth and even greater secrets, and his employee Julian (Tom Hughes), who has an unhealthy infatuation with band singer Jessie, are not to be trusted. I'm not entirely sure about Joanna Vanderham's saucy minx IT-girl either.

So why have I got question marks dangling over the drama? Was it because I felt every plod of plot was far too easy to spot coming? Was it because the first 150 minutes felt like they could have been done in 60? Was it the nagging doubt that I already know how this story is going to unfold? Fingers crossed I'm totally wrong about all of the above and I'll be clicking my fingers to Poliakoff's tune next week.

Dancing on the Edge continues next week on BBC Two

Danny Baker on the set of his new show 'Danny Baker's Great Album Showdown'

© BBC / Richard Ansett

Danny Baker on the set of his new show 'Danny Baker's Great Album Showdown'


Rounding off a week of music-themed TV shows is Danny Baker's Great Album Showdown. A three-part series stripped across the week on BBC Four, the DJ and former NME hack hosted discussions about the greatest ever rock, pop and R&B records with a gaggle of great and fascinating guests (Martin Freeman, Stephen Street, David Hepworth) and some who just seemed to like the sound of their own voice (Mica Paris, Boy George).

As someone who grew up in the '90s, I used to think Danny Baker's purpose in life was Daz adverts, hosting Pets Win Prizes and helping to flog tatty stocking filled Own Goals and Gaffs DVDs.

I don't know who Danny's agent was in the mid-'90s, but I presume they don't get much work these days, because his talents were wasted on such frivolous nonsense. Apart from Pets Wins Prizes - that was brilliant. Obviously.

There were several moments I found myself shouting at the telly during Album Showdown as Baker and co cooed nostalgically about the "golden age" of records, harped on about kids today and their MP3s and patted each other on the back about how everything was better when they were young.

The Golden Age essentially amounted to the 1970s and even for someone who considers themselves a grumpy MOJO-magazine reading, retro-musical gorger, I felt my anger boiling as CDs, the 90s and contemporary hip-hop, pop and rock were dismissed as a load of cobblers. Especially as Jeremy 'Supertramp made the greatest record ever' Clarkson was one of the people casting aspersions.

But I think that was half the point. Even though I found myself baffled by some of the record choices (I just don't do Frank Zappa), even though most of my record collection was dismissed as modern day waffle and even though Boy George wouldn't stop banging on about David Bowie, I still loved this show.

Baker's giddy, giggling, teenage boy-esque passion for the subject was infectious, he drew great anecdotes from his guests and even though a lot of the discussion was about mainstream, canonical rock and pop acts, the final record selections were intriguing and refreshingly leftfield. In fact, my only true criticism of the show was that it was over so soon. If BBC Four has any sense they'll give Baker an extended full series.

Danny Baker's Great Album Showdown is still available on BBC iPlayer

Missed it! Don't miss out!
Being Human S05E01 - 'The Trinity': Tom (Michael Socha), Alex (KATE BRACKEN), Hal (Damien Molony)

© BBC / Touchpaper


Being Human - BBC Three's greatest ever drama series is slowly heading towards its finale. Don't miss out on the final episodes of supernatural chills and fang-tastic thrills - Still available on BBC iPlayer.

The Mary Berry Story: - A strangely moving tale of cakes, family heartache and yet more cakes from the Bake Off Queen. It turns out there's a lot more to Miss Berry than sponges and soggy bottoms. - Still available on BBC iPlayer.

The Big Reunion - Watching washed up '90s boyband scamp Lee from 911 speaking candidly about cancer and the end of his marriage definitely didn't get me blubbering. Honest. - Still available on ITV Player.

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