Magazine article Variety

Cabler's 'Country' Expands

Magazine article Variety

Cabler's 'Country' Expands

Article excerpt

IT'S BARELY BEEN A YEAR since CMT, long the television home of country music, and more recently a breeding ground of all manner of reality shows, decided to move forcefully into scripted entertainment. The network is plotting the second season of the Billy Ray Cyrus-starring "Still the King" preparing to bow its eight-hour miniseries on the famous meeting of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis, dubbed "Million Dollar Quartet" and also overseeing a thriving sideline in documentary production.

But suffice to say, the network could hardly have hoped for a more appropriate existing show to help broadcast its commitment to scripted TV than ABC's "Nashville" whose fifth season will debut on CMT next January.

"Our love of 'Nashville' probably even predates our full-on commitment to scripted" CMT president Brian Philips says. "It's as if the two ideas met at the most convenient time"

Indeed, CMT had even given the show's cast a special award at its last Artists of the Year kudocast, and sprung into action as soon as ABC announced it wouldn't be renewing the show.

"Our conversations began the minute the show became available, and the deal was closed easily and seamlessly with Lionsgate" Philips says. "'Nashville' is emblematic of so many things that live in the essence of CMT. It's got music at the center, intriguing characters at the edges, and it's a great builder of our national identity as a television network and our identity as a city. It's just the right show at the right time."

The network also saw a strong start for "Still the King" earlier this summer, and is already planning on its second season. And Philips is particularly high on "Million Dollar Quartet" which shot on location in Memphis, directed by Roland Joffe, and featuring Chad Michael Murray as Sun Studios honcho Sam Phillips.

With the show focusing on a pivotal moment in music history half a century ago, Philips agrees that contemporary country music fans might not be as intimately familiar with the significance of that event as generations past, but pledges that the series will be more than a simple reenactment of music history, tackling the moment as a coming-of-age story, with nods to the civil-rights struggles that were percolating all around Memphis at the time. …

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