In Crazy Hearts, a new "reality" show premiering 10 p.m. Wednesday on A&E about strugglers in the Nashville music scene, that dream may have been realized.
I can practically hear the pitch now:
"OK, here's what we've got: a modicum of attractive women, scruffy-looking dudes whose authenticity is defined by their scruffiness, enough alcohol to float a battleship, and some live music scenes where nobody knows the songs. We'll have breakups and hookups, like a Jersey Shore spinoff with cowboy hats. None of the characters will be likable, and because most country music borders on parody anyway, it will be easy to get people on the coasts to make fun of it on Twitter. We can create an interactive audience completely of people talking about how much they hate the show! And then they can buy the music ironically on iTunes! We'll sell it as a 'reality' show, even though everything is staged, so we don't have to pay for actors OR writers! And all we have to keep is a tenth of the Duck Dynasty lede-in!"
Think I'M being cynical? This is a transcript of the opening of the pilot (voiceover in italic):
Nashville … A drinking town with a music problem
"I have a massive tolerance for liquor. And an intolerance for bad music."
This city is filled to the gills with singers and songwriters shooting for the stars.
"You have to want it worse than everyone else combined."
Because in Nashville, everything starts with desire.
"Leroy Powell … curious about 'cha."
And ends with heartbreak.
"I don't think I've ever felt heartache like this."
"They say 'quit drinking,' and I'll quit drinking. 'Quit wearing blue jeans,' and I'd quit wearing blue jeans. 'Quit wearing boots,' and I'll tell you to 'f*** off.'"
But no matter how many times we're knocked down, we just saddle up and ride again. Because we all know what really counts here.
"In Nashville, where the song is king, if you don't have good songs, you're nobody."
"Who is this bitch?!?!?"
"Do not judge me too quickly, girl."
And that's just how we like it. If everyone made it? It wouldn't be Nashville.
And the visuals are just as ridiculous.
Over the next 40 minutes, as the characters (caricatures?) are introduced, the dialogue is bad and the staging worse as we hop from bar to bar following people just trying to make it (or make out). Confessionals shot on green screen — so that they can superimpose bar scenes behind the cast — are so poorly done that ragged edges appear where the background meets the character. I never thought I would be pining for the heady production values of an E! Network show, but Keeping Up With The Kardashians is a luxe bit of realism by comparison.
It would be easy to hate Crazy Hearts just for the ridiculous way it makes Nashville and Nashvillians look. But a much better reason to hate it is how utterly and completely fake everything is. From the fake crying to the fake drama to the fake lovers' spats to the fake cowboys on horseback to the fake music showcases, Crazy Hearts may be the bridge too far: the show that is so completely and utterly ridiculous that it kills "reality" shows like it altogether. Good riddance. In a golden age of broadcasting, something has to be the worst show on TV.
So congratulations, Crazy Hearts. You're No. 1 at something.