Shortly after Nashville‘s cancellation by ABC, social media discussion worked itself into a mini-frenzy again when Entertainment Weekly’s James Hibberd reported that Lionsgate, the studio that distributes the show, had sent an email to employees telling them that they were seeking a new home for the show. The article named Hulu, CMT, DirectTV and Epix as possible destinations for the show. Since then, various parties associated with the show, including show creator Callie Khouri and actors Ed Amatrudo (who plays manager Glenn), Clare Bowen (who plays Scarlett), Chris Carmack (who plays Will), Charles Esten (who plays Deacon), Sam Palladio (who plays Gunnar), Aubrey Peeples (who plays Layla) and Lennon and Maisy Stella (who play Maddie and Daphne) have been encouraging fans to tweet with the hashtag #BringBackNashville. Also joining in the campaign? Music supervisor Frankie Pine, who is responsible for placing a lot of the music that has become the backbone of the show.
Now, grassroots campaigns to save bubble or even canceled shows are not a new development, and the odds of a pickup by another outlet are typically slim. Still, Lionsgate TV confirmed talks with “interested networks” earlier today:
— Lionsgate TV (@LionsgateTV) May 20, 2016
The studio also planted a piece in Deadline noting the “movement” to bring the show back. It reads like an effort to turn the perception of a large engaged fanbase into a tool that boosts Nashville‘s pickup prospects. But just how realistic are those prospects?
As a show, Nashville brings in ancillary revenue through its music sales (the music is distributed by Big Machine). Additionally, last year, AXS-TV signed a licensing deal to broadcast the first three seasons of the show. Its four seasons have also broadcast in the UK, with the first three seasons airing on the More4 and then E4 channels and the fourth season airing on Sky Living. The show has done well enough in the UK that the show announced the first-ever international tour dates for members of the Nashville cast, to take place in June, mostly in 2k+ capacity theaters in England and Scotland. The cast has also toured the U.S. several years, including 17 theater dates in April and May of this year.
On the cost (or cost reduction) side of the ledger, the city of Nashville and state of Tennessee has a strong vested interest in keeping Nashville both on the air and filming in Nashville, due to benefits on both the tourism and employment sides. Accordingly, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry issued a statement expressing her disappointment over Nashville‘s cancellation, noting that “The show has been an enormously successful promotional tool for our city.” Bob Raines, executive director of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment and Music Commission, noted that the show airs in 82 international markets, showcasing Nashville and its music venues internationally.
The Bluebird Cafe in particular has enjoyed a major boost in interest thanks to its loving treatment on the show, and the Grand Ole Opry, where various Nashville cast members are frequent performers, has seen a boost in sales as well. That contributed to four years of state and local incentives packages to the show that totaled $45.65 million over Nashville‘s four seasons, per Nate Rau of The Tennessean, with The Tennessean‘s Dave Paulson reporting that Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam proposed another $8 million in incentives on the state level (to be supplemented by local incentives) for a fifth season of the show.
The most telling note about Nashville‘s prospects for pickup by another outlet may have come yesterday from Opry historian Byron Fay, who noted:
Speaking of Nashville, the word on the street is that it is going into world-wide syndication and that the show producers are shopping it around to another network, probably on cable. There is interest in the show if the costs can be brought down.
Now, what would an Opry historian know about Nashville? Well, Byron Fay has generally had a strong read on what is going on around the Opry, and Steve Buchanan, President of the Opry Entertainment Group, just happens to also be an executive producer of Nashville. This is all still speculative, but it affirms that the Powers That Be behind Nashville seem determined to keep it going if possible.
Now, what exactly does “costs can be brought down” look like? There was a bit of a social media dust-up over Connie Britton‘s appearance this week on Late Night with Seth Meyers this week, with some Nashies, as they seem to be called, feeling like Connie Britton didn’t seem the appropriate levels of upset over the show’s cancellation. Yahoo! TV critic Ken Tucker described her demeanor thusly:
— kentucker (@kentucker) May 19, 2016
Meanwhile, the show’s other high-profile lead, Hayden Panettiere tweeted the day of Nashville‘s cancellation by ABC that she would be taking time to continue dealing with postpartum depression:
— hayden panettiere (@haydenpanettier) May 12, 2016
Neither Britton nor Panettiere has been a part of the #BringBackNashville social media campaign. Nor has Will Chase, who plays Luke Wheeler. All three play superstars on Nashville and none of the three embedded in Nashville life and the Nashville music scene the way Charles Esten, Chris Carmack, Clare Bowen, Sam Palladio, Aubrey Peeples and the Stella sisters have. Also not participating in the #BringBackNashville campaign has been Jonathan Jackson, who plays Avery.
The four who haven’t participated in the social media campaign were probably the four highest profile names on the show prior to joining the show. This is significant because it isn’t too hard to imagine a rebooted version of Nashville that took the music scene out of the superstar orbit of Rayna, Juliette and Luke Wheeler (and therefore taking out the show’s highest-priced talent) and focused on songwriters and rising artists working to build their careers – the Scarletts, the Gunnars, the Wills, the Laylas, the Maddies and Daphnes – and the drama therein. Frankly, the superstar aspects of the show were almost always the least convincingly handled, so this might even make for a tighter, better-written show. The main problem would be how to explain Rayna’s lack of visibility on the show when she’s married to Deacon (who would presumably still anchor the show) and mother to Maddie and Daphne. But surely that could be handled too, right?
So what do you think? Are you team #BringBackNashville? How do you fancy the show’s chances of turning up on a cable net or streaming platform? And would you watch it if it no longer featured its marquis names?
P.S. I am weeks behind on Nashville recaps. I will catch up this weekend and, whether or not this is really curtains for Nashville, try to give the show its due in the process.