Music series

The first episode of FOX’s country music series “Monarch” is a dud

I hope someone appreciates the rigors one has to go through to cover the full extent of what falls under the “country music” beat. Lucky for you, I watched the first episode of FOX’s new country music drama Monarch with Trace Adkins and Susan Sarandon so you didn’t have to, and I just want to say, you’re welcome. Go ahead and free up some space on your DVR, and I’ll take the risk bounty if anyone wants to contact me on Venmo. But just like most traditional country music, Monarch maybe just bad enough to become a massive hit.

The reason this show was even worth a curious peak is that it could have implications for the country music world in general. With Paramount Yellowstone career-launching series if someone’s music is featured on the show, and after ABC’s success with country music-based drama Nashville between 2012 and 2017, it was worth giving Monarch a sniffle. But where Nashville featured compelling characters you wanted to root for while interweaving stories relevant to today’s world of country music, Monarch just feels like a stock network TV drama with country music as the backdrop and a merchandising tie-in.

Sold as a “Texas-sized, multi-generational musical drama about a family synonymous with authenticity,” Susan Sarandon plays sick “country music queen” Dottie Cantrell Roman, Trace Adkins is her asshole husband Albie and the British actress Anna Friel is Nicolette “Nicky” Roman, aka the heiress to what is referred to as “country music’s first family.” The Romans live in Austin on a large estate, but spend a lot of time in Nashville tending to the family label. In other words, it is Empire for rednecks, borrowing far too much from its out-of-the-chute predecessor, and is about as believable as Sarandon’s southern accent.

The Monarch The beginnings were all drama, with no time to breathe and no meaningful dialogue. When the best line comes from Susan Sarandon’s character when she brushes a thoroughbred and berates her son, “Don’t be a horse donkey,” then turns to the horse and says, “No offense,” you know that you are screwed. There are all sorts of threads of drama presented in the first episode amid canned commentary and sweeping vistas of the Austin skyline and Roman domain, but it’s hard to know who to root for in the series when each character is distinctly loathsome. The Monarch The stable of characters are all female dogs, douchebags and assholes.

But make no mistake, critics are going to love this series and the first episode in particular since there’s a same-sex interracial kiss. by Susan Sarandon other daughter in the drama is an overweight lesbian with a black woman, which means this show will win seven Emmys. But anyone with any taste had changed the Sunday night tilt between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third commercial break.

The only silver lining was the soundtrack. It was not Yellowstone attention, which features some of today’s top independent country artists. But it wasn’t ABC Nashville either, which deserves credit for having worked on original songs, although they mostly got lost in the television format. Monarch in contrast, “Drivin’ My Life Away” by Eddie Rabbitt, “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” by Brooks & Dunn, and performances of “Family Tradition” by Hank Jr. and “Good Hearted Woman” by Waylon Jennings. Were these pieces worth suffering all the time to hear them? Of course not. But maybe someone there was exposed to actual country music instead of what they’re used to on the radio.

FOX has been selling this series hard, and has been for two years now. It was supposed to debut last year, but they delayed it due to production issues caused by COVID-19. Judging by the debut, it probably deserved even more oven time, better writers, and a better cast. Trace Adkins felt like an unsubtle stiff for the character, and it only feels like Susan Sarandon is involved because it’s filmed in her hometown of Austin and she’ll be killed off on the show.

With an assortment of choices these days in the media, Monarch feels like a waste of time, and a guilty pleasure at best, at least judging by the first episode. It screams of network television’s approach to entertainment. I’m sure there will be some audience for this, but its country music relevance will be relegated to helping fill presenter rosters at awards shows and brand activations at bad corporate music festivals .

It was only one episode, but this country music fan won’t be coming back to see how the producers figure out how to chain these poorly constructed characters together for five seasons before they all kill each other.

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