Country Music Reality Shows Tanking Left & Right

March 13, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  39 Comments

Crazy-Hearts-Nashville-CastEverywhere you turn, people are trying to take advantage of the rising interest in country music and Nashville. Country is seen as marketable, palatable to the masses, and financially lucrative from the free and easy way country music consumers spend their money. Radio and concert promoters are betting big on country, and so are television’s singing competitions that have launched many of the genre’s biggest current stars. It seemed like only a matter of time before reality TV got on the “gone country” kick, and it has recently with a slew of new shows. But unfortunately for country music’s small screen offshoots, all’s not right in TV land.

Announced earlier this week, the A&E reality series Crazy Hearts has officially been canceled. Initially announced as a “Nashville Music Docuseries”, the show followed aspiring singer-songwriters Lee Holyfield, Anthony Billups, Leroy Powell, Jimmy Stanley and Amy Wilcox, artist manager April Nemeth and media personality Heather Byrd as they tried to make it in the country music business. But ratings for the show started off poor and stayed that way, and eventually A&E moved the show from a prime weekday spot to a lackluster Saturday afternoon time. Eight episodes of the show were made, and that all there will be.

Another Nashville and country music-based reality show called Nashville Wives is also waging an uphill battle. Panned by critics and beset by poor ratings, the TNT reality show faces a rocky future. Modeled around other “wives” reality shows, Nashville Wives follows Sarah Davidson, wife of Dallas Davidson, Erika White, wife of country performer Bryan White, and four other Music City debutantes, capturing their daily lives. The problem according to TV critics is that the show is boring. But instead of canceling it, the shows producers have put out a casting call, possibly to attempt to find wives who might be more entertaining to viewers. Still, the future of the show seems very uncertain.

And though not a reality show, the flagship of Nashville and country music’s small screen invasion, ABC’s hour long drama Nashville also seems to be finding some ratings pressure, and there seems to be some question if there will be a third season as the show tries to secure government incentives to continue to shoot in Tennessee. One thing working in Nashville‘s favor is that the real Nashville believes the show is a big tourism boost. According to a recent survey, 1 in 5 Nashville tourists were motivated to visit the city because of the show. ABC also lacks another ratings blockbuster to fill Nashville‘s current spot.

But overall, the environment looks bleak for country music to breakout into reality shows, or even sustain the few it’s already started. Just like many of the popular music trends that Music Row seems to be 9 to 18 months behind on, country music may have taken too long to jump on the reality show bandwagon and it’s rolled on by. At least for now.

39 Comments to “Country Music Reality Shows Tanking Left & Right”

  • I can’t say I’m sad about any of this.


  • Bryan White? Bryan White? Yeah, he had a few hits, some of which went to No. 1, but he was only barely relevant at the height of his popularity! The hell makes anyone think there would be any interest in what his wife was up to then, let alone 14 years after his heyday?


    • Heh, my ex loved Bryan White back in the day. She probably watched that show. :P


      • My sympathies. Is that why she’s your ex? :D


    • Bryan White is straight?


  • I don’t give two hoots about any reality shows (country or otherwise), but Nashville is my guilty pleasure and I might never forgive ABC if I’m deprived of Connie Britton’s fabulous hair. It’s one of only three network shows I watch religiously. Sadly I don’t think I fall in the coveted demographics spread anymore.


    • Yeah, I still like that show too — a guilty pleasure for sure, but it’s got some good acting and decent music. :) (Plus,’s recaps are a hoot.)

      As for the headline about the “reality” shows tanking, I’m not gonna lie — my first thought was, “GOOD.” :p


      • I agree that the recaps (on Vulture and TWoP, in addition to EW – yeah, I’m *that* person) are just as good as the show!


    • Nashville on ABC is a guilty pleasure for me too. The cast is good, the drama is wonderful cheese and the music is usually solid. What I’m wondering though is where the solo up and coming singer/songwriters come up with full bands at a moments notice for live shows.


    • “I might never forgive ABC if I’m deprived of Connie Britton’s fabulous hair.”

      This comment made my day! I agree!

      I too love Nashville. My schedule doesn’t allow me to watch it live, but first thing every Thursday morning, my ass is on Hulu. I do love the music. I am totally impressed with the tunes, both the real artists (Lindi! Turnpike!) that are featured or played, and the songs the characters sing. I might get crap for this, but I do guilty-love that damn Will Lexington “What If” song.


  • I watched the first episode of Crazy Hearts back when it had it’s little preview on Hulu. I knew nothing at all about it. I didn’t know what it was about, I didn’t know it was a reality show (I swear, to this day I don’t know for sure that it’s actually a reality show, it was the most horribly scripted thing I have ever seen and it was obvious that everyone was acting) all I knew is that it was supposedly about country music and it was some early preview thing.

    It was without a doubt one of the worst things I have ever seen in my life. There was nothing about that show that did not suck. I swear it was one of the most painful hours of my life.


    • So you should have turned it off Synthetic Paper. But I am with you guy. I hate reality show. First of all, I do not believe they are real, which makes them lose credibility in the worst way. Second of all, who the hell cares about the daily going on of someone else life. How in the word is watching someone else daily routine entertaining. I hate every single reality show on the planet.


  • I tried watching the show on Monday. The only part I caught had Erika trying to get the perfect headshot & none of the shots were to her liking. I felt sorry for the photographers and changed the channel.

    I’d much rather watch Jean Shepard on a reality show. She wouldn’t hold ANYTHING back. Heck, the Grand ladies of the Opry on a reality show would be much better than Crazy Hearts & Nashville Wives combined.


  • I can understand the decline in ‘Nashville.’ I watched and enjoyed season 1 largely because it was shot on location on the streets of Nashville, had traditional country music in the background had some cool cameo appearances, (Del McCoury, Vince Gil, etc), and as far as soap operas go it was well written.
    But this season feels like Scott Borchetta has taken over as a creative consultant. There’s little if any authentic country used in the background. There’s a token black girl this season, who in one episode for some reason did a Diana Ross cover with one of the blonde girls on the show, even though they were in a country bar.
    In the season premiere they introduced a country-pop talent show winner who was being pushed by the bad-corporate- exec-villain of the season, however her corporate-pop songs are featured just as much each episode as the main character’s. It’s like the producers are saying “We know she’s bad and doesn’t represent country music or the spirit of the show, but her stuff will sell on iTunes so we’re going to push it.”
    Also it feels as though each episode has a quota of songs it needs to feature so that ABC can sell them on iTunes. It’s one thing if characters are at a concert, but every commercial break someone has an excuse to pull out a guitar and jam. “Hey Grandpa’s coming over, why don’t you play that song you’ve been working on.”
    Luke Bryan’s popular so in season 2 they introduced an older Tim McGraw type character who happens to be named Luke.
    The whole thing just feels so clumsy and transparent which is a shame since season 1 had some great things to offer fans of the city and traditional country music.


    • “There’s a token black girl this season”

      It seems like there cannot be an SCM thread about a topic somehow involving a black person without someone making a gratuitous racial comment.


      • Sorry, not racist. TV execs are under pressure to include people of color regardless of context or they will be the ones called racists. Hence the “token” person you see out of place in various commercials and shows. Throwing a knee-jerk, liberal style “racist” barb at someone for little or no reason is getting quite old and I’m sick and tired of it.


        • The argument that if any black person has been given a prominent role somewhere, then the purpose must have been to fill some diversity quota, is becoming even older.


          • Nashville is a show with just white people and one black side character at all times. Robert Wilson was the first black side character. He left the show and then magically Zoey appeared to fill in the gap and maintain the one black person quota.

            I don’t have a problem with it (I like both of the characters on the show) but It seems pretty obvious to me what’s going on. Unfortunately because of people like you don’t live any a country where anyone can use their brain and point out the obvious (without being jumped on or called a racist).


          • If you want to believe that token minorities aren’t intentionally placed in television, film, and commercials that’s your prerogative. My point was to be mindful of throwing the racist label at someone. There was nothing wrong with what Matt said and he didn’t deserve your negative comment.


      • Actually it wasn’t a “gratuitous racial comment” at all.
        It was part of a list of several examples of the creators of the show adding elements to appeal to a broader audience.
        The inclusion of more pop music, the addition of a character named “Luke, and yes the sudden addition of an attractive young black girl, played by Charley Rose.
        The addition of her character was especially transparent given that she was introduced out of nowhere as Scarlett’s (a main character since the beginning) long time best friend.
        I’m assuming you don’t watch the show and that may explain your response to my comment, but had you been watching the show since season 1 you would be able to tell how manufactured and superficial her inclusion was (in the same way adding a character named “Luke” was.
        Now keep in mind season 1 had several black characters, the mayor of Nashville, some band members, Wyclef Jean as a record producer etc. They were background characters (other than the mayor) but had any of them organically become main players that would have been fine.
        The criticism is not racial, the criticism is a clumsy tv-exec directed call for diversity, which could have been handled in a much smoother natural way.


        • The actress who plays Zoey is Chaley Rose, not Charley Rose. If you’re going to say she’s a token, at least get the girl’s name right.

          Anyway, Zoey was added to be both a friend of Scarlett’s and a love interest for Gunnar to complicate the already pretty complicated Gunnar-Scarlett relationship. The fact that they hired a black actress to play her is irrelevant.

          Put another way: How is Zoey any more of a token than Will Lexington (played by Chris Carmack), the closeted gay country singer?

          My only complaint with this season is the ham-fisted way the writers came up with to make Juliette their Natalie Maines stand-in. The overall storyline has been pretty good, but the reasoning behind Juliette’s banishment is weak.


          • Her skin color is only relevant and was only mentioned in the context that it was one of many transparent ways that the producers have gone out of their way to make the show appeal to wider demographic which is indicative of poor story telling.
            Yes, she was added to be “a friend of Scarlett’s and a love interest for Gunnar.” I understand the storyline she’s involved in. The issue with it is the abrupt way she was brought in. Out of nowhere Scarlett’s never before mentioned best friend is hanging out all the time. Even the relationship with Gunnar was telegraphed from a mile away. After they first hooked up Chaley’s character said “Scarlett can NEVER know this happened.” Gee, I wonder what that was setting up.
            Yes, you can make the argument that having a gay character is an attempt to be topical, however that storyline came about on it’s own in a more natural way.
            Will was around for awhile, established as a ladies man, and then made a pass at Gunnar after a few episodes.
            It wasn’t just out of nowhere, “Hey, here’s a new character, and guess what, he’s gay!”


        • I disagree with the comparison between Will’s storyline and Zoey’s storyline. Physical appearance cannot be concealed like sexuality.


  • Hee Haw was awesome…for 30 years. Just sayin


  • How about a reality series called “The Real Dip***t’s of Nashville”? It could be about Record companies, Producers and Publishers ruining country music. Ha.


    • Early in the run, a guest host of Saturday Night Live (Buck Henry?) insisted during the monologue to be taken to the writer’s room–on the premise he didn’t like the script, I guess. Of course there was a big deal made about no access to the room–nobody sees the writers–this guy wants to see the writers?–Oh my god–blah blah blah.
      So over all these protests he finally gains entry to the Writer’s Room, and of course it is a bunch of stoners lying around in a thick fog of smoke, and of course Buck doesn’t get too far with his script rewrite request. Funny, funny shit back in the day.

      Anyhoo . . .

      Your comment made me remember that, and it makes me wonder what we would see if we swung open the door to the ‘True Movers and Shakers behind Mainstream Country Music’ room?


      • “The True Movers And Shakers” would probably open with a grand shot of Garth Brooks swinging on a rope over a huge crowd of teenage girls. he’s kind of the one that started the whole downturn of country into pop crap in my opinion (And alot of other real country songwriters in Nashville as well…) Remember the Chris Gaines fiasco? It all went downhill from there.
        The back room would most likely be filled with 25-30 year old MBA’s from Yale that are only interested in one thing…$$$$$$$$–not music.


  • I watched the first episode of the Nashville Wives and the only part worth watching was Raul Malo singing .


  • Reality television is crap. Always has been, always will be.

    I haven’t seen Nashville, but I’ve heard that it has featured some great songs from Caitlin Rose, Kacey Musgraves and a few other talented folks. Any show that features Caitlin Rose’s “Waitin'” is alright in my eyes.


  • I do hope that ABC’s “Nashville” does get renewed for a 3rd season as I just love a well written prime time soap opera drama series! Heck, I’m glad the new “Dallas” is back for another go round on TNT with John Ross Ewing becoming the new chief scoundrel now that his daddy J.R. is gone.

    The music on the second season of Nashville may not be up to the standards of the first season, but it’s still better than most of the stuff on AirHead Country Radio.

    Because Hollywood types are so politically correct (and agenda driven) it blinds them to the effects liberal elements in the show may have in offending a typical Nashville viewer. The biggest example is the Will character being a gay that won’t come out of the closet for fear it will doom his career. When Will kissed Gunnar in the first season I bet a whole lot of viewers tuned out for good. I’d wager a good portion of the Nashville audience just tolerates that plot line but would prefer it would go away.

    As for the token mulatto character Zoey, she is so cute and has such a nice voice I’m really glad she’s on the show! Go Zoey! (lol)


    • Its been renewed for a 3rd season.

      Zoey is cute and when she sings it doesnt sound glee fake like most of the rest of the cast.


    • Do you know the real meaning of the word “mulatto”, by the way?


      • He probably does, but I doubt he’ll respond. As I’m sure you know, it means mule. Half horse and half donkey.

        This is classic passive aggresive Rick trying to stir up shit. He saw Matt’s comment about a token black (I don’t agree that it was gratuituous) and your reaction to it. I’m sure Rick knows that mulatto is an archaic word and offensive to some, but not as overtly offensive as other words (e.g., mongrel – Ted Nugent’s word of choice, who by the way, Rick has professed his admiration for via comments on another music site). My guess is that he chose that word carefully. Anyone who objected to it can be dismissed by those of his ilk as being “politically correct.”


  • Hey! I was just thinking about this subject after reading an article about “Nashville Wives” on The Tennessean website. Basically, it said local ratings for the show have plummeted.

    ‘The latest entry, TNT’s “Private Lives of Nashville Wives,” was been bumped to air an hour later in its third week and has experienced a sharp decline in local ratings — one reflection of a widespread complaint that these Nashville-based reality shows don’t reflect the city that local viewers know and love. “It’s unusual to have a show, especially one that’s considered one of your flagship shows, run at 10 o’clock at night,” said Mark Binda, program and research director at Nashville’s News Channel 5. “So obviously, it’s a really bad trend. It wasn’t great to begin with, and it’s gone down every week since.”

    The article article goes on to state that national ratings are actually on the upswing, while again, local ratings have tanked. That’s because people don’t want to see citizens of their own hometown portrayed as superficial, badly behaved idiots (if indeed any of women on the show are actually Nashville natives.) I have my doubts. To these and any other contrived country / Nashville ‘reality’ shows, I say good freakin’ riddance.

    If anything deserves more attention from the TV viewing audience, it’s the Music City Roots show on public TV, or the Marty Stuart Show on cable. Or better yet, why not create a network music show that broadcasts from the Ryman, like the old Johnny Cash show, that could feature modern music from the Americana / Roots / Independent Country scenes. Ok, I know I’m dreaming, but there is a vacancy left by Austin City Limits, a show which respect, but which has really broadened its scope from its original content. People are hungry for independent music and interested in roots music, and I can think of a lot of artists that could use the exposure.


  • Thankfully there are shows about real, struggling musicians. I don’t know how the ratings are going, but I try to tune in to watch Texas Music Scene with Ray Benson, Troubadour, TX and LoneStar Roads. However, those shows do have some crap I’d rather not watch(the Casey Donahews and Josh Abbotts of the Texas/Red Dirt scene).


    • Here in South Dakota there is a new grass-roots TV and Radio program started last year called “The White Wall Sessions”. I’m sure there are others like it across the country. It features local Singer-songwriters in a very laid-back setting where you can actually hear the music and stories. Granted, not all performers are “Star Quality”, but they all deserve a shot. Even Charlie Parr (Who Trigger has many good things to say about) has performed on ThWWS.
      Check out their website to get a feel for what takes place. Videos of all the season one performers are there.


  • I found “Nashville Wives” informative. I learned about Dallas Davidson, his tremendous success and his role in the destruction of country music.
    And if this show sticks around his wife Sarah who has an average voice and lacks any kind of charisma, may actually find an audience cause that’s what makes stars these days tv.


  • Being a southern country fan, i am confused as to how anyone, even dumb yankees could think these nashville shows are remotely related to country music. surprised even more that what i read here on this site could ever be a successful venture. does the creator of scm really live in his moms house? admits he don’t listen to the music he comments on, just reads other real reporters news and then makes up stories and post them, and last but not least, can’t seem to stick to the subject of country music. i suppose from the so few readers who comment don’t realise this is as fake as what is being reported as fake. for a couple of weeks i have read most every artical and have come to the conclusion, no one knows what the hell is going on in country music. i think you might want to get a job, leave your parents some peace of mind and write about something you know. this whloe place is a joke. come on down to georgia and we’ll teach you about country music. gosh…this is dumb!


    • “come on down to georgia and we’ll teach you about country music. gosh…this is dumb!”

      If I may say so, Ma’am, Georgia is where Luke Bryan, Cole Swindell, and one of the guys in Florida Georgia Line come from.

      I think, judging by that, that you need to police up the poor quality of alleged “country” music coming out of your state before you “teach” other states about “good” music. Just saying.


Leave a comment

Del Maguey
Old Soul Radio Show
Modern Roots
Best Of Lists