This is Rayna James (Connie Britton), a country music star, whose upcoming tour doesn't seem to be successful.
Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere), a new sensation, who's trying to get all the best people from Rayna's entourage by sleeping with them all and essentially take Rayna's place. She also has a drug addicted mother.
Marshall Evans (Todd Truley) the new manager of the label Rayna and Juliette work for. He's got great idea to earn money: send both of them on tour to co-headline. James would be opening, the label would save money on production, a win-win! Great idea, but somehow Rayna doesn't like it (so proud).
Randy Roberts (Burgess Jenkins) Rayna's producer, who's doing Juliette, and she already got good songs from him for that instead of Rayna (to be fair, Rayna was offered these songs first, but she hesitated).
Deacon Clayborne (Charles Esten), Rayna's ex-lover, lead guitarist of her band and a songwriter, also doing Juliette (she wants him in her band).
Lamar Wyatt (Powers Boothe) Rayna's father and a very rich man. She likes to think she earned everything on her own, without his help. He claims he paid for her first record.
Teddy Conrad (Eric Close), Rayna's husband, who we learn was not her first choice for marriage. He's just a loser generally, but now Wyatt offers him to run for the mayor's office (because another candidate would interfere with his business plan and Wyatt needs a puppet). In a fight with Rayna, Wyatt also implies that Teddy is not the father of his older granddaughter (so she's Deacon's or?)
These are Scarlett O'Connor (Clare Bowen), Deacon's niece, and Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio), they wrote a song together (Scarlett's lyrics, Gunnar's music).
This is Watty White (J.D. Souther) a legendary country music producer and a friend of Rayna's. He hears the song by Scarlett and Gunnar, and I guess he wants this song for Rayna.
So these are the key characters and key events.
A question: do they seriously choose a hypocritical, judgmental, arrogant b**** without any self reflection practice as a main (read: good) character? I'm talking about Rayna James here. Who can possibly like this not-so-long-ago-the-future-of-country-music, who even being close to hitting rock bottom throws a diva at her own rehearsal? She's the one that "settled" for the man she married, but now she doesn't want "to lie" (by co-headlining) that she likes Juliette's music (uuu, principles!). She's the one that's treating her husband like crap despite the fact that he's apparently raising somebody else's daughter. And I can't not to comment on her performance in the beginning of the episode: it was stiff and awkward, her voice was weak-ish and boring, and the song was so-so. I'm obviously not in any way objective since my youth was marked by the ascension of Britney Spears (and actually, I think "the new market" they are referring to in Nashville was that of the time of Britney, so early 2000s; it's a lot different now; for example the song that Scarlett and Gunnar sung would come from youtube now, not from the bar singing contest/karaoke, whatever that was), but I've gotta say I'm not surprised Rayna's tour not going that well. She kind of sucks.
By adding so many layers to the character of Rayna James, the creators of the show made her, as I said, a little bit of a hypocrite. So what did they do to fix that? They created an antagonist that would seem even more immoral than Rayna, Juliette Barnes. But wait... did they really?
OK, what do we have on Juliette? She's using her looks, which is fine for any performer. She's ego-centric, but so is Rayna. Her voice isn't perfect, but they actually had to articulate that ("thank God for the auto tune"), otherwise I did not see any flaws. Her mother is a drug addict, but that's not her fault (though this is supposed to explain why she turned to be a bad girl). And then, Callie Khouri (the scriptwriter and producer of the show) shows her pocket Aces: Juliette is sleeping with every man standing, to get her way. It was already two guys in the first episode and we can only guess, how many men she did before she became popular.
Wow. Explain to me one thing: why a female character from "the dark side" must necessarily be a slut? Maybe it's just hard to accept for a female writer from another generation that younger girls can generally achieve more not only because of their looks and high demand for them on a sex market (that too, of course), but because they can generally better adapt to the modern time, I think, they understand intuitively what are the trends and where to head to get somewhere. Besides, sex in show biz? I don't know about country music, of course, but there hardly is enough straight men to light up all these new little stars that appear every month.
Anyway, I think it was a bit low to make Juliette sleeping around, but at least she really "achieved" everything she has on her own, whereas Rayna wouldn't be a star without her father (secretly) paying for her first record.
Rayna and Juliette seem to be very much alike, only the latter lives the life the former sort of wishes of (she's young, famous and with Deacon).
In general, the dialogues are great, that's what the creators of The Mob Doctor must listen to on repeat, until they get it; musical parts are very well integrated to the narration, it is perfectly directed, the actors are amazing and the characters are rather interesting (not necessarily likable, though). I liked Rayna's father and Juliette the most so far. Plus, the main characters are female and this season women really dominate. Yet I think this show is late for 5-10 years (where is Internet and social networks, mm?). But it'll definitely get many awards next year, critics seem to looooove it.