Just make 'Nashville' all Juliette Barnes, please

So many boring things are happening on a weekly basis on Nashville that it's easy to forget that, amidst the boredom, there do exist some characters on this show with a little substance and verve. Actually one character, who to my mind has always been the star of the show: Juliette Barnes. When Nashville kicked off last fall, it was unclear just how the show would treat its co-lead. Was she the devilish seductress, making trouble for everyone in her radius? Was she the enfant terrible to Rayna's seasoned artist? Was she a joke, a flash-in-the-pan, a hack?

Nashville did something interesting by sort of making Juliette... all of those things, and in the process giving her a personality and perspective that dwarfs practically everyone else on the show. Rayna, as much as I love her, ranks among the most dull leading characters on television today. She's caught between Deacon and some hunk cowboy singer, or she's trying to fight for her creative independence by striking out on her own, or she's... Rayna's the kind of person you say " ...I mean, she's so pretty" about when you describe her personality to friends. Juliette, on the other hand, has been tough and sweet and awful and forgivable all at once, this complex assortment of tones and moods that make her both knowable and surprising at the same time.

Take tonight's mea culpa — intended mea culpa, anyway. Money was, of course, always on her ignoring the cue cards (and Jeff's wishes) to take a stand for herself and her right to personal expression. But you could easily imagine her going the other way, too — toeing the company line, at least for one day, even as we saw it killing her to do so. That we can understand either of those two scenarios (or even many more) going down with rational psychology behind them speaks to how well-written a character Juliette is, one whose decisions we can feel confident in predicting but who also sometimes take us places we weren't expecting.

In general, Nashville could stand to write... well, everyone else like this, too. As is, the characters and conflicts of Rayna, Deacon, Teddy, Scarlett, Gunnar (hell, everyone except Will, and even he's been neutered since his near-suicidal weekend in the woods) are all so predictable, so perfunctory, that watching them play out feels almost like deja vu. Surprise is what keeps us engaged in any kind of story, funny or sad, and when we feel like we know the terrain so well already... Point is there's a difference between deeply knowing a character, and knowing a type. Nashville has a lot of the latter. In order to populate its world with more of the former, the show would be smart to ask itself: WWJD?

Image: ABC