It’s not uncommon for bubble shows to film two endings in an effort to put a cap on their shows should they not get a renewal. The business of television has proven to be woefully inefficient in the way that it decides which shows live or die, often pushing that situation until the middle of May — right around when shows close up shop for the season — so this practice offers fans some measure of closure.
When Castle got the hook after a brief flirtation with the idea of doing a ninth season without its co-lead, Stana Katic, the series finale gave fans a glimpse at the unthinkable (and an obviously intended cliffhanger) before allowing them a sigh of relief thanks to a tacked on warm and fuzzy final moment of fan service. Nashville fans, however, weren’t that kind of lucky when their show took its last bow on Wednesday night, confusing and ticking off some fans who had expected the same kind of fan service. The thing is, they may still be lucky and the finale may not have been the last bow.
According to TV Line, the show’s studio, Lionsgate, felt that Nashville would be in a better position to find a new home (that oft-teased, but still infrequently realized fantasy of all cancelled shows) if they closed on an epic cliffhanger: (Spoilers!) in this case, one that left the fate of one of the main characters, Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) up in the air.
That position was made crystal clear when Lionsgate, whose Twitter background is an advertisement for the #BringBackNashville fan campaign, sent out a pretty confident tweet.
Whether that’s an act of chest thumping in an effort to drum up interest, or a justified boast from a studio that has a legitimately hot property remains to be seen, but the fans are on board, and most of the cast has been vocal in the effort to get a second chance (though, star Connie Britton — who has been through this all before with Friday Night Lights — seemed publicly at peace with where things were when she told Seth Meyers that the show’s ending was, “bittersweet” back on May 16). The question is, where would the show fit?
It’s doubtful that ABC didn’t consider the value of those same vocal fans (Nashville has been a bubble show throughout its existence, but its fans have always rallied and supported the show on social media) and the impact of the Nashville brand (the live concerts and the original music sales) when they made their decision. To them, the best of what Nashville can offer has already been extracted, but for another network or a streaming channel, the show could be an instant infusion of legitimacy and good publicity. It has to be the right network or service, though. Does a Hulu or a Netflix get much from a Nashville pickup?
Nashville blends romance with the ins and outs of the music business well, relying on strong performances from Britton and a number of actors who are not household names like Charles Esten and Clare Bowen. Chris Carmack, in particular, has excelled (especially this season) as Will Lexington, a character trying to make it as an openly gay artist. But the show never quite became the catty and sultry primetime soap it was advertised as initially. Nashville is more a drama with a heart and too many spinning plot points, and that keeps some people interested, but Nashville isn’t buzzy and it isn’t winning mainstream awards. Save for the fans, people don’t talk about it that much. And that’s the kind of show that won’t give Hulu and Netflix what they’re likely looking for, though the fact that Hulu has the first four seasons on their service is a mark in their favor in terms of finding a compatible home.
Some of the other destinations that have been mentioned make more sense — E!, Lifetime, and Bravo — as all could use the boost in their original programming efforts, but the best fit is doubtlessly CMT, the Nashville, Tennessee-based country music cable channel that is looking to launch two scripted programs in the fall. They could use a splashy pickup as an anchor, especially one that speaks to their demographic. There’s also the fact that Nashville is locally produced, meaning CMT would save local jobs if they rescued the show.
There are other less likely options that make sense on paper due to their business ties to Lionsgate, like Epix and even Tubi TV, a Crackle-esque ad-supported streamer with Lionsgate money flowing through its veins, but the latter is just me speculating.
Wherever the destination and whatever the decision, it seems likely that we’ll all know soon. But with interest in the cliffhanger, the social media campaign, the fact that the show is somewhat financially flexible in that one of its stars may or may not be killed off (meaning the option is there to shed some money, if need be), and the presence of new showrunners (Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz), one would assume that the prospects are generally good for a second chance. And that’s the best kind of fan service.