Nashville, Season 1

Why Does Nashville Have Such Short Scenes?
Talking television.
May 14 2013 2:55 PM

Nashville, Season 1

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Why are Nashville’s scenes so short?

averyjuliette
Blink and you'll miss them: Jonathan Jackson and Hayden Panettiere as Avery and Juliette

An observation from Slate senior editor Dan Kois: Nashville has really short scenes. They are walk-into-a-room, say-a-pithy-line, and exit-short. Strum-a-wistful-chord-on-my-guitar-and-cut-to-a-commercial short. My highly unscientific tabulation of Nashville scene lengths reveals that the vast majority of the show’s scenes end before the two minute mark; meanwhile, a common industry rule-of-thumb for average scene duration is three minutes. 

There is nothing wrong with short. (I am short, and I am OK!) But it’s worth asking what Nashville gains from this practice of collage, when it dabs our screens with an almost pointillist combination of tiny moments, rather than letting its storylines play out.

As an ensemble drama, Nashville needs to keep tabs on a large cast of characters. Short scenes make that possible—they ensure that we don’t get so engrossed in Scarlett that we forget about Juliette—and they make it easier to imagine that events are occurring simultaneously. To watch Tandy and Rayna discussing Rayna’s night with Deacon, and then seconds later to see Coleman and Deacon doing the same thing, is to become doubly aware of the irresistible Rayna-Deacon symmetry that powers the show. It’s just a breath away from the split-screen that electrified 24, and like that device it seems both practical (lots of twists and turns to keep up with) and thematic (as if the show takes place in a breathless, untidy universe, where things just keep happening all at once).     

Rapid-fire scenes emphasize the breakneck quality of so much of what Nashville is about: stardom, addiction, romantic love. They link together like sequences of flashbulb memories, or vivid distillations of experience, creating the sense that the television world is sharper, cleaner and more orderly than ours.

Or, I don’t know, maybe they’re just a concession to logistics. But they. Are. Short. And. Perhaps. That’s. Why. The. Occasional. Long. Song. Is. Fabulous.  

Katy Waldman is a Slate staff writer. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

Uh-Oh. The World’s Oceans Have Broken Their All-Time Heat Record.

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

Future Tense

How to Keep Apple From Sharing Your iPhone Data With the Police

Food

How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

A Simple Way to Keep Apple From Sharing Your iPhone Data With the Police

The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant

The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 11:40 AM The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
  Life
Outward
Sept. 18 2014 4:15 PM Reactions to a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Reveal Transmisogyny
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.