Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere Jam in “Nashville”

Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere on Nashville
Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere on Nashville
Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere on Nashville

Full disclosure: when I went off to college in Ohio, I took along my 13-inch portable black-and-white TV — complete with headphones. Why headphones? So I could listen to Dolly Parton on The Porter Wagoner Show, which was broadcast from the one and only Opryland USA.

Yes, I was country when country wasn’t cool. And that’s why I naturally glommed onto the ABC drama Nashville. This show is about so much more than the music it highlights in each episode — the acting is sizzling.

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The Nashville cast is headed by Connie Britton as country superstar Rayna Jaymes, Charles Esten and Eric Close as the two men in Rayna’s life, five-time Emmy-winner Jonathan Jackson (Lucky Spencer on General Hospital), and Hayden Panettiere as Rayna’s frenemy, rising star Juliette Barnes. There’s love, divorce, music, death, closeted country singers, sex, more music, betrayal, secret children, more sex, drug-addled parents, alcoholism and did I mention music? While I loved Britton from her Friday Night Lights days and her powerful voice on any song she sings, it was Panettiere who blew me away with her portrayal of Barnes, a former piece of trailer trash who overcame a drug-addicted mother and horrendous childhood to become a major star and the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry. Panettiere is top-notch, with her singing off the charts. Her on-camera chemistry with almost everyone on the small screen has me saying just one thing: y’all try it, ya hear?

Eric McCormack as Dr. Daniel Pierce
Eric McCormack as Dr. Daniel Pierce on Perception

Over at TNT, meanwhile, Perception has turned out to be a real winner for Eric McCormack. As Dr. Daniel Pierce, a professor of neuroscience with paranoid schizophrenia who is recruited to help the federal government crack difficult cases, he studies the brain and all its quirks. And when it comes to quirks, Pierce has a passel of them, the least of which is are hallucinations that always seem to help him solve the crime. Pierce’s uncanny knack for seeing what others don’t makes him invaluable to FBI agent Kate Moretti (Rachael Leigh Cook), his former student, who may or may not have a personal interest in him. Not to be left unattended are Arjay Smith as Max Lewicki, Pierce’s teaching assistant, friend and keeper, and the legendary LeVar Burton as the perennially nervous dean of the university. It’s good to see McCormack really flourish again after Will & Grace.

Jimmy Fallon with U-2
Jimmy Fallon with U-2

Best TV Moment of the Week:
Do you really have to ask? Jimmy Fallon blew it wide open with The Tonight Show. From the moment he started he couldn’t lose and we all knew that. Fallon is one of the most likeable guys on the planet. Many times I’d be sitting in a back table at some cabaret room, look to my left and there was Fallon, enjoying the show. He’s a nice, down-to-earth, regular guy and people can sense that. That’s why he will succeed and be revered the way Johnny Carson was and Jay Leno could never be. Oh yeah, that bringing it back to NYC thing is just the icing on the cake!

This Week on the Tube:
The Oscars, blah, blah, blah…12 Years a Slave better win or there is no justice in the world. American Hustle? Feh!

This Week in Real Life:
Both Kathy Garver (Cissy from “Family Affair”) and Larry Thomas (The Soup Nazi from “Seinfeld”) will be at the Hotel New Yorker for the New York Comic Book Marketplace one-day Con on Sat., March 1, from 10am – 7pm. Come on by and say hello to them — and to me — I’ll be there all day.

Jim Lange on The Dating Game
Jim Lange on The Dating Game

RIP to Jim Lange, host of that 1960s TV game show staple The Dating Game. A native of Minnesota, Lange became a San Francisco radio jock and announcer for Tennessee Ernie Ford’s show before being tapped for The Dating Game. The contestants featured many stars-to-be, such as Farrah Fawcett, John Ritter, Dusty Springfield, Steve Martin, Andy Kaufman, Burt Reynolds, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Selleck. Though Lange hosted other shows, it will be for The Dating Game that he will long be remembered.

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The TV Junkie was preceded in her family by a large mahogany cabinet that housed a small screen with a large speaker below. Thus began her love affair with the older sibling in the living room. Theirs was a tenuous relationship, prone to mishaps (forgetting to use the special "screen" for Winky Dink), joyous events (Julie & Carol at Carnegie Hall), sad moments (Clarabelle saying goodbye to the Peanut Gallery) and a wide range of emotions (the funeral of John F. Kennedy and the Inauguration of Barack Obama). From Captain Video to Star Trek to Lost; from A Brighter Day to The Edge of Night to One Life to Live; from Peyton Place to Dynasty to Desperate Housewives; there has never been a greater love, than that of the TVJ and the best friend a girl could ever have. Like "The TV Junkie" on Facebook and follow her on Twitter: @thetvjunkiepml.