Aug 17, 2021
19 Kids and Counting RECAP: Cousin Amy Comes to Nashville S14:E17
It’s another road trip episode! This week, the Duggars head to my hometown—Nashville! Now I know just how much existential despair pride and excitement the people of Chicago have felt the past two weeks.
Okay, so it’s not really the Duggars, but a Duggar. And not even one of the primary cast, but some off-brand cousin. Remember when you were a kid on your birthday and your aunt bought you a Mighty Fightin’ Energy Ranger action figure because she didn’t know the difference? Yeah, that’s what Nashville gets this week on I’m Not One of the 19 Kids And I Don’t Really Count. Thanks for nothing, assholes.
Amy Duggar is Jim Bob’s 27-year-old niece and a cousin to the titular 19 kids. Apparently she’s been on the show before, trying to leverage her family name into a music career in Nashville. To my surprise, she’s not Contemporary Christian or even country but “Lite AC.” What the hell is Lite AC, you ask? I had to google it. Turns out adult contemporary radio stations (you know, the ones with Delilah) are divided into “Hot AC,” which might throw in a little Bruno Mars to help you think you’re still slightly hip, and “Lite AC,” which worries Toni Braxton might be a little too “urban” for their audience. Barbara Streisand’s music would fit in perfectly if only it wasn’t for her nose, er, I mean, her “politics.” They make white bread into milquetoast, is what I’m saying.
Amy’s singing career continues to not exist, so she’s back to bumming air time off her more famous cousins. In fact, she gets the whole hour pretty much to herself. To kick things off, Amy is fretting about a performance tomorrow night on the Branson Belle, a showboat in Branson, Missouri, that seats 600 people. This is Amy’s largest paying audience ever, although not one of them is paying to see her in particular. Amy is just one act in a parade of no-name performers who will take the stage during a dinner cruise. Think Amy would have made the playbill if she hadn’t agreed to say “Branson Belle” 800 times on the air? Book your tickets today!
Tangent: Another trip to google informs me that the Branson Belle Christmas Carol Cruise features “the world’s only aerial violinist.” What the hell is an aerial violinist? This apparently:
If that’s the level of excitement that showboat audiences are accustomed to, no wonder Amy is so nervous. What’s a gal to do to settle her nerves? Shopping, of course! But first, a flashback to Jill and Derick’s wedding lest you forget what show you thought you were tuning in to see. We never saw Amy in the original two-hour wedding special, but she was asked to perform a song during the ceremony. We get a quick sample of her warbling while the bride and groom stare into each other’s eyes. Ever sat through someone’s cousin singing at their wedding? Amy is only slightly better.
Okay, back to the shopping excursion. Amy drags along her momma and grandma—that’d be Jim Bob’s mom—to help her pick out a dress for her big show. Since there’s all sort of photos of Jim Bob and Michelle making the evil smoochie-faces before marriage and damning themselves to everlasting hellfire in the process, we’ve got to figure Grandma Duggar isn’t as big of a cultist nutball as the show’s primetime players. She shows it here, urging her granddaughter to give the showboat crowd what they want—a little leg and a little cleavage. “I’m not a showgirl!” protests Amy. Listen, do you wanna make it in the music business or not? Katy Perry started out a goody-goody Christian singer as well, you know. Now let’s fit you into a whipped cream bra.
If skin is out, Grandma tries to cover Amy head to toe in black-and-white sequins instead. The result is how I imagine Dolly Parton would try to dress Diane Keaton for the Oscars.
Everyone agrees it’s awful, and Amy settles on an ultra-tight, bright blue cocktail dress with too much lace instead of too many sequins.
“It really beams you up,” says Grandma. If only. This show could use some warp speed and photon torpedoes.
Now it’s the night of the show. Amy plans to sing “You Were Always On My Mind,” which she thinks Willie Nelson made famous. Willie’s version is phenomenal, don’t get me wrong, but Elvis went further up the Billboard Hot 100 (#20) in 1972 than Willie did (#22) ten years later. And, of course, the Pet Shop Boys took it all the way to #4 in 1987, so we see where the real talent lies.
Backstage, Amy is getting the jitters because this ain’t a captive wedding crowd but paying customers. I’m sure all the regular performers find her nervousness charming and aren’t the least bit bitter that Amy gets a solo (and an entire TV crew to follow her around) just because she’s got that photo of Uncle Jim Bob naked with a rooster and a bucket of Vaseline.
The announcer is saying, “You may have seen her on 19 Kids and Counting…” and Amy says, “Oh my gosh!” right into the camera. Immediately we cut to Amy in the interview room saying, “I was like ‘Oh my gosh!” Well, yes. That’s pretty much exactly what you were like. Why don’t you leave the recaps to the professionals.
Yeah, yeah, that’s totally unfair to Amy because that’s 100% the editor’s fault. It’s also the editor who picks this spot to insert a clip of Joy Anna saying “My cousin Amy has always wanted to be a singer, and I think she’ll be great at it.” We’re ten minutes into the show, dickhead. We’ve figured that much out already.
Amy heads out on stage to standard applause; apparently the mention of 19 Kids didn’t send the crowd into a tizzy. She takes her place, mic in hand… and…
Dead silence fills the floating auditorium. Amy is waiting for her music to start, but nothing is happening. She looks around as if trying to find the audio booth so she can try to make the sound guy’s head explode with her mind. When it becomes clear that the music isn’t imminent, she finally tries to engage the audience with some vamping. “How’s everyone doing tonight? How was dinner?” She gets some polite laughter, and I suspect it’s folksy enough to keep the audience on her side. No one is expecting Taylor Swift.
We cut away to the interview room, and Amy says, “I’m not surprised that it screwed up. That’s my life.” YOU CAN SAY “SCREWED” ON THIS SHOW?! CHILDREN MIGHT BE WATCHING!
To everyone’s relief, the music starts. Amy belts it out to the rafters. “Maybe IIIIIIIIIIIIII didn’t love you… quite as often as I should have…”
Yeah, it’s your fault for not putting out enough.
Amy is cramming as much emotion into the song as humanly possible, filling every syllable with white girl soul. Imagine all the melodrama of Celine Dion but without the consistency. Even just the highlights they choose to air are as overwrought and uneven as any American Idol audition.
The song wraps up, and that’s it. Amy’s done for the night.
One damn song is all she gets?! Wow, that’s anticlimactic. But what a great deal for the Branson Belle: national TV exposure in exchange for letting one mediocre pseudo-celebrity pretend to be Anne Murray for three minutes. Kudos to their marketing team.
On the other side of the commercial break, it’s some ill-defined period of time later and Amy is visiting the Duggar compound to celebrate her 28th birthday. See, she really is a part of the family! We promise! Don’t change the channel!
Amy has brought a box of donuts, which she plans to arrange into a vaguely cake-shaped formation for herself. Various little kids help, which goes about as well as you would expect. Nine-year-old Johannah ends up falling of the counter and splashing arm-first into the icing. Daddy Duggar chances her around trying to lick her arm, then makes off with a donut or two, that lovable cad.
The whole family heads outside to cook hot dogs on sticks over a bonfire. Ever watched a home video of someone else’s family cooking hot dogs on sticks over a bonfire? Of course not. No one would is brain dead enough to think that would be entertaining for anyone else, yet here it is.
We jump forward in time again, and Amy is in Nashville. Her producer Jamie Slocum—yes, the Jamie Slocum, whose song “Dependence” was #1 on the Lite AC charts for 11 straight weeks—has set up a meeting at SESAC headquarters for Amy to sing for representatives of Curb Records and Black River Entertainment.
In the lobby, Amy is once again dealing with the jitters. She’s so nervous that she’s “prayed like a million times.” Good call, fixation and begging are great for settling your nerves.
“There’s a lot of labels in the room,” she says. Well, two, but it’s still a BFD, granted. Or, at least, it would be a big deal if this is a legitimate meeting. Is it? Eh, I’m not convinced. Curb Records puts out Slocum’s records and we’ll soon learn Slocum is renting Black River’s studio to produce a music video for Amy. My guess is Slocum called in a couple of buddies to sit in on this sham meeting, which is being staged entirely for the benefit of the show rather than to generate legitimate interest in signing Amy to a label. After all, the point of this episode is not to get Amy a contract but a spinoff.
Per the Nashville newspaper:
“Amy’s Nashville Dreams” is the follow-up to her summer television special that was also set in Nashville. This time — if the ratings are good — she’s hoping to get her own series.
“Obviously that’s up to the network,” [Amy] Duggar said. “We’re excited for the catch-up for me, and we’re excited about the future. It looks like it could be promising.”
Jamie tries to tease Amy by telling her that her entire career and future rides on this meeting, but she’s either too nervous or too oblivious to follow his sarcasm. Once they’re in the conference room, introductions are made, and Amy says, “I’m used to singing with a hairbrush so I’m not sure what to do with my hands.” How very Ricky Bobby of you. Ever heard the phrase “act like you’ve been here before”?
Three musicians set up behind Amy in the corner of the room. They start up an original song written by Amy herself. “Heal me with a simple kiss. It’s the medicine I need,” she croons.
She starts out strong, then painfully flat, then a solid finish. She looks at the reps with an embarrassed smile. The woman from Curb Records must have been part of Amy’s previous 19 Kids episode because she calls her “much improved.” The guy from Black River agrees that Amy has “potential,” but says he needs to hear more songs before he can say anything definitive.
But he’s not going to hear any more right now because this meeting is over. Jamie tells Amy he’s overjoyed with how well things went.
“I am so humbled right now!” gushes Amy. Um, no you aren’t. You are stoked. You are filled with pride and confidence. That’s pretty much the opposite of humbled. People need to stop misusing that word.
It’s the next day and Amy is driving around the Music Row Roundabout talking to her mom. For people who live in Nashville, it’s hilarious to see them featuring this particular landmark because it’s “controversial” to the conservative Christian crowd because the statues in the middle of the roundabout are naked with penises and everything. Sadly, no bronze penises are distinguishable out the window as Amy tells her mom, “I have a fear that I’m going to be a laughing stock as soon as people see the video.” Oh, Amy, that horse has left the barn, bless your heart. Also, it’s clear that you’re simply driving in endless circles around the roundabout in order to have this conversation in a recognizable place because it only takes about three seconds to make a complete loop.
“I’m making my own music video. What?! Who does that?” says Amy in a cutaway interview. I don’t know, Rebecca Black?
They arrive at Black River Entertainment and meet Jamie in the half living room/half sound booth where they’ll be shooting the video. Amy asks to see the lyrics of the song they’re recording, and Jamie is verklempt. As well he should be. Did she not know what song they were recording today? She protests, repeatedly, that she doesn’t know the song because she hasn’t sung it in six months. Jamie sternly tells her to keep her voice down because if anyone from the studio hears her, they’ll think she’s a joke, as if they don’t already. Who the fuck shows up to shoot a music video and says they don’t know the words?
She steps up to the mic, the cameras start rolling, and is she seriously not even going to take off that smurf hat?
“Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la,” she sings—or might as well, because she seriously doesn’t know the words. Even for a show that’s typically about a woman with the mental faculty of an eight year old trying to populate a New Jerusalem with her vagina, this is one of the biggest WTF moments of the season.
Amy stumbles and bumbles her way through the first take. In the interview room, she says, “It was one of those humbling moments.” At least she used that word right this time.
Jamie—also humbled—tracks down a copy of the lyrics, and Amy takes off the smurf hat. We know she means business now!
The next take goes much better, then they record it another “15 to 20 times,” which is to be expected. For some of the takes, they get her to change into what she calls her “glamour” clothes. Holy shit. I’d call it her grandma clothes, but we know Grandma wants her in nothing but skin and sequins. She’s in a crochet vest, for fuck’s sake. Isn’t What Not to Wear on this same network? Their heads must be exploding.
Amy wears a rather nice green dress in the interview room, so she knows how to dress—or at least the producers know how to dress her. How did no one step in and straighten out this mess?
We jump forward a few days, and Amy’s back at home with all her girlfriends for a video watching party. Mom and both her grandmas are there, along with a half dozen or so 20-somethings. Jamie shows up and pops in the DVD.
The music video starts with Amy showing up outside the studio, then we get a montage of her singing into the mic from various angles. From a purely visual standpoint, she looks great in the close-ups, so that’s something. The wider shots, meh. But then we get to Amy dancing around the studio in her crochet vest. Wow. I’m professionally invested in hoping the Duggars make the biggest fools of themselves as possible, and I still can’t help but cringe.
Given the limited footage available—i.e., all studio shots—it’s not surprising that the video has absolutely nothing to do with the lyrics. Then again, considering how vacuous the lyrics are, I’m not sure what other options they had. “Dreams so sweet/Makes for a wonderful life.” It’s a relentlessly perky song about nothing more than the experience of feeling perky. I suddenly have a new appreciation for emo.
Amy is fucking ecstatic with the video. All of her friends and family agree than it’s wonderful. Judge for yourself:
“I think that video is going to be everywhere,” says Jamie.
Bullshit, says me.
The show wraps up with Amy pondering her future. “My heart’s there [in Nashville]…and it feels like it’s just so close.”
But she’s still not ready to take the plunge and move. Not without a TLC commitment to at least 12 episodes of her own spinoff a lot of prayer.
Programming Note: I missed one week of this season’s 19 Kids & Counting when my own kid was born, so I’ve still got one more recap coming. Plus, I’m switching over to Duck Dynasty recaps since its season is now underway, so stay tuned.