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‘Nashville’ (CMT, Jan. 4 at 9 p.m.)

This season’s theme: For Chip Esten, the theme of Nashville‘s final season is best expressed through song, specifically a Deacon Claybourne original called “Looking for the Light,” written by Charlie Worsham and Dennis Matkosky. “Does Deacon have the strength to go on and do what he knows Rayna would want him to do, which is keep on looking for the light and bringing the light to his girls and his own life?”

Where we left off: Deacon and Zach (Cameron Scoggings) came to a tentative agreement over Rayna’s beloved but struggling record label, Highway 65. Meanwhile, Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) and Maddie (Lennon Stella) both lost out in the whole “stolen song” scandal, with Juliette squandering her artistic reputation and Maddie losing the American Music Award to Katy Perry. In relationship news, Gunnar (Sam Palladio) and Scarlett (Clare Bowen) separated — for good this time! — and Jessie (Kaitlin Doubleday) and Deacon put a pin in their obvious chemistry … for now.

Coming up: Brace yourselves, Nashies, but that Jessie/Deacon pairing is going to happen. “I’ve always wanted to err on the side of taking the time, because I think we need that grieving process,” says Esten. “When he gets reacquainted with Jessie, they don’t know what this is going to be, but they do know that this is a friend, and that’s a start.” While their dad stumbles his way to new love, his daughters explore fresh career prospects, with Maddie’s star growing brighter, while Daphne finds her own voice as a singer.

One last time: Esten recalls the mood on set being bittersweet when the producers broke the news about the sixth season of Nashville also being its last. “Callie Khouri [the show’s creator] pulled the troops together. We met in the Bluebird — not the actual Bluebird, but our set — and the place was packed with people. She sat on the stage right beside a camera and let us know. It was definitely emotional, for so many reasons.” — EA

(Photo: CMT)

Winter TV preview: The scoop on 10 returning favorites

Hello, old friends — and by friends, we mean our favorite TV shows. And as with any friend who’s been away for some time, it’s time to catch up on what’s been going on and discover what’s new.

These returning shows range from a musical drama taking its final bow to a fantasy epic, to a political thriller about a new, embattled president. A superhero is back to prowl the streets of New York, while a queen figures out how to rule and be a mom at the same time. The truth is still out there, and love is still everlasting. Click through this slideshow to get the rundown on 10 returning shows, straight from the cast and creators. And check out our Winter TV Preview, featuring 13 new shows, here.