Everywhere 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.