Roush Review: ‘George & Tammy’ Sings a Country Love Story for the Ages

Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon - 'George & Tammy'
Dana Hawley/Courtesy of SHOWTIME

George & Tammy

Matt's Rating: rating: 4.0 stars

They lived their lives and conducted their tormented, torrid relationship as if reenacting the country lyrics that made them famous. Showtime‘s lively, and splendidly acted, George & Tammy limited series makes real the supposed clichés of alcoholism, addiction, heartache, and unquenchable love that fuel so much of the Nashville music scene. There may never have been a power couple who so potently embodied these themes as the volatile George Jones (Michael Shannon) and his headstrong soulmate Tammy Wynette (Jessica Chastain), who stood by her man until she no longer could.

You’d expect actors of this caliber to bring emotional authenticity to their scenes of high passion, violent conflict, and deep regret, and indeed they deliver. But you’re likely to be even more blown away by how convincingly and ardently they provide their own vocals. (Seriously, is there anything Chastain, a recent Oscar winner as Tammy Faye Bakker, can’t do?)

Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain - 'George & Tammy'

Dana Hawley/Courtesy of SHOWTIME

The storytelling is considerably less inspired, playing like a real-life version of A Star Is Born, with Tammy’s career on the rise while George, 11 years her senior, endangers both of their livelihoods with his wild, petulant, even dangerous behavior. “If you’re seein’ me sober, I ain’t awake,” he jokes. Except it’s no joke. Whenever he crashes, which happens frequently, everything burns. His battle with the bourbon bottle is echoed in Tammy’s addiction to painkillers following complications from a hysterectomy.

It doesn’t help when a cynical crony (Steve Zahn as Tammy’s future second husband) suggests during a rare moment of domestic bliss, “Happy at home doesn’t make hits,” followed by their producer informing George (as if we didn’t already know), “Tammy’s a rocket … You’re just along for the ride.” But what a ride it was, while it lasted.

Let’s give Tammy the last word: “If I wasn’t sad, there’d be nothing to sing about.”

George & Tammy, Series Premiere, Sunday, 9/8c, Showtime (special free preview of first episode on Paramount Network)