How odd that Nashville somehow picks up steam when its dueling divas put Music City in the rear-view mirror. After struggling to establish momentum in the first half of the season, ABC's musical drama has grown quite a bit juicier since throwing the veteran Rayna (Connie Britton) and the pop-tart upstart Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) together on the road in a high-profile and high-tension concert tour. (More music = better show, by the way.)
This week (10/9c), the friction escalates now that Juliette has added Deacon (the terrific Charles Esten) to her band — setting up a number of awkward cold-shoulder elevator encounters between him and former musical/love partner Rayna. Even more intriguing is Juliette's career crisis as she considers defying her manager to evolve and mature her flashy brand, despite being told she's a "multi-million dollar industry." This episode is especially canny in dramatizing the impact of social media. When Juliette is told "the tweets don't matter," it's obvious they do.
Theirs isn't the only triangle making noise. Back in Nashville, Rayna's neglected mayor-elect husband is once again hanging around the doting Peggy — how much better would Nashville be without them? — while cash-poor Scarlett is having trouble paying the rent without Avery around, as if it wasn't already clear that Gunnar would make more than an acceptable substitute. One of Nashville's strengths is the way it dramatizes all sides of the music business, from sold-out arenas to barely thriving honky-tonks, while showing that even those at the top never stop trying to reinvent themselves. Not unlike a TV series finding its voice in its freshman season.
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WHERE WERE YOU ...
When the lights went out at the Superdome on Super Bowl Sunday? Chances are you were in front of the TV, cringing as the CBS Sports analysts vamped for more than 30 minutes waiting for the game to resume. A much better angle on the story is being promised by Showtime's 60 Minutes Sports (10/9c), which was already planning a behind-the-scenes segment on Super Bowl preparations when the blackout occurred, with correspondent Armen Keteyian observing the fallout from the NFL Control operations center. Keteyian also profiles NFL Films founder Ed Sabol, who doesn't think non-players such as himself or team owners deserve to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Some fans may beg to differ, specifically those who tune in an hour earlier for the season finale of Inside the NFL (9/8c), which includes NFL Films' highlights from Sunday's game, including audio captured on the field.
SWEEPS STAKES: The auditions are over, and Fox's American Idol (8/7c) heads West for the "Hollywood Rounds," which is what they're calling "Hollywood Week" now that it's being stretched over two weeks. First up this week: the guys, with the girls taking over next Wednesday and Thursday, at which time the Top 40 (20 guys and 20 girls) who'll move on to the semi-finals are revealed. But seriously: What will Nicki Minaj wear, and how many accents will she try out before it's over? ... Crossover-stunt alert! CSI: NY's Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise) heads to Vegas, where he enlists D.B. Russell (Ted Danson) on a search for his missing girlfriend on CSI (10/9c). The conclusion airs Friday on CSI: NY (9/8c), with Navid Negahban — aka Homeland's Abu Nazir — guesting as a criminal who might know how to help them find Christine.
FOR LAUGHS: As I've often noted while cheering ABC's The Middle (8/7c), especially this season, what sets it apart from other sitcoms is its frank acknowledgement that times are tough for many American families. With the deadline looming for college acceptance, the Hecks are worried that Axl might not get the athletic scholarship they've been counting on, while little Brick won't stop pestering them for an iPad. ... There's a class war going on in another wild episode of ABC's Suburgatory (9:31/8:31c), when Dallas discovers her palatial home crosses over the East Chatswin line making her a social pariah, while Dalia is transferred to East Chatswin High, where she sticks out like her coveted kangaroo. Some of the biggest laughs are reserved for Tessa in her new extracurricular gig as producer of Chatswin High's "Teen Talk" in-house TV show, which takes on a whole new attitude when her boyfriend Ryan (Parker Young, a hoot) steps in as host and will only talk about his body: "Please talk to my glutes, they're all ears." ... Nathan Lane returns to ABC's Modern Family (9/8c) as Mitchell's friend Pepper, as they tee off in a golf match against Jay and Phil.
THE WEDNESDAY GUIDE: More guest-star action, as the ever-controversial Mike Tyson appears on NBC's Law & Order: SVU (9/8c) as a death-row inmate the detectives encounter as they trace the history of a sexual predator. Last Resort's Andre Braugher returns as lawyer-for-the-underdog Bayard Ellis, enlisted to stir things up before the execution can take place. ... Genre fave David Anders (Alias, Heroes, Once Upon a Time, The Vampire Diaries, etc.) shows up this time on the CW's Arrow (8/7c) as a master criminal just out of prison who (like every other bad guy) wants Arrow out of the way so he can get back to business. ... Barney Miller's Hal Linden heats up the CW's Supernatural (9/8c) as a rabbi who spontaneously combusts, leading the brothers on a collision course with an out-of-control Golem. ... In the third and final installment of Attenborough's Life Stories on PBS' Nature (check tvguide.com listings), Sir David Attenborough muses on the future of "Our Fragile Planet," how and if it will survive climate change and other side effects of human habitation.
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