Sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, doo doo be doo be doo doooo! As the song goes, so does the new TV series from HBO and Martin Scorsese as they show that the world of music during the seventies was as crazy as you would have thought.
On paper Vinyl looked amazing, a show about the music industry in the seventies, with an outstanding cast and the power of HBO and Scorsese behind it, what could really go wrong? Except that it just wasn’t that good.
There shall be spoilers for Vinyl season 1 within this review.
There were so many issues with Vinyl, however the biggest one can be summed up in one word, nepotism. Mick Jagger was an executive producer on Vinyl, which is great, someone who was about the music industry during the seventies, what a useful addition to the show… Except for the fact that he managed to shoehorn his son into the show.
James Jagger who played the front man for the Nasty Bits is one of the worst actors I have ever seen in a big budget production, who isn’t there for their looks. You could go down the high street and see some jaikie put on a better show than Jagger did throughout Vinyl. It really bemuses me how they thought it was a good idea to put him in this, he was so bad it’s ridiculous.
He had one move, which was acting like a spoilt brat, which he pulled off poorly (still better than any other emotion he failed in portraying) which was almost definitely him just acting as himself. Whenever he went beyond spoiled brat, his acting was so hammy and laughable, I really couldn’t help but feel sorry for the people who actually ran the show, that they were forced into taking him because Mick thought it was a great idea.
Another thing that bothered me about this casting, was how he was English, yet the rest of the band were American. They tried to explain this away about eight episodes in, with him saying some girl or something broke his heart, boomotherfuckinghoo. I do like how he seems ok about breaking the law consistently in his new county, however I have to wonder when immigration will come round for a visit, due to his numerous arrests and law breaking. Jagger’s casting is the equivalent of that hot chick you see in the movie who’s sleeping with the director so gets a role, even though she can’t act (they had a story strand involving exactly this ironically).
The Nasty Bits generally were terrible, from the stupid love triangle to the fact that some shit band would be so demanding, it really ruined the show for me more than anything else. That thing where they came on screen and you did your best to not zone out or not roll your eyes over how shit and poorly written they were. The sad thing being that a band being newly signed should be a really cool and interesting part of the show, instead they turned out to be by far the worst part.
If only that were the end of the criticisms, but no they go on, and there are many. Martin Scorsese is a genius, the man had made and been involved in so many great things over his career, however what is it with Scorsese and everything having to do with the Mafia? Vinyl of all shows did not need a mafia subplot story arc. You have a show about the music industry in the seventies, is that not enough to grab people’s attention without having to resort to a killing someone and then snitching on the mob story? The answer should be yes, however Vinyl decided that it was actually no, for some god knows reason.
Obviously when you make a show about music, you are going to have a lot of people portraying ex-musicians, and of course that makes total sense, seeing as American Century was a big record label, however it seemed like every episode was themed. One episode would be Bowie, the next John Lennon, the one after that Zeppelin, next week maybe Elvis and the only constant was the fucking Nasty Bits! Vinyl was trying way too hard to be cool, with its look at the famous seventies person shtick and it really hurt the show. It kind of made it a bit pathetic really, like it so desperately wants to be liked so it shows you all its cool friends whilst slagging off the dweebs like Donny Osmond.
Vinyl suffered from the dreaded disease of pretentiousness, a nasty disease that makes you think that you are better than others. Whether it be from the way they talk down certain music which when looked back on isn’t seen as favourable or the weird mystic ghost musicians who randomly appeared in episodes for no other reason than art and stuff. Even the whole Andy Warhol stuff was totally unnecessary and reeked of look how in tune with the arts world we are.
Bobby Cannavale is a likeable guy, and I thought it was nice that he was being given a lead role in a big TV production, but it didn’t quite work for me. Richie Finestra is not what I’d call a good character, he’s troubled yes, but a good troubled character has to be likeable first, so that you ignore all their bad actions, and Richie isn’t really likeable. I can’t quite put my finger on it, maybe it’s that he fucked his friends for no good reason, maybe it’s because he’s too high all the time or maybe it’s cause it’s just a poorly written character. They wanted Richie to be their Don Draper, and in many ways they are similar; both are pretty pathetic but one has charisma and a certain suaveness about them, the other doesn’t and takes drugs all the time.
It wasn’t all bad, I thought that Ray Romano was the best character in the show by a mile as Zak Yinkovich. If it was Richie who had taken the bullet in the head in the last episode I don’t think I would have cared, however if it was Zak I would have been pretty annoyed. He’s one of the only likeable characters and I think the more prominent he became in the show, the better it got.
Zak wasn’t the only good character, Lester was also an interesting character who wasn’t seen enough. If we could have got more Lester and less Nasty Bits then I would have been much happier after finishing the season. Julie was pretty cool as well, he was the light hearted comic relief in what was a lot of the heavier stuff.
The music in the show was absolutely great, which should be no less than expected seeing as it’s the seventies. I like the idea that we are seeing the birth of punk and disco and despite what was said earlier, I love the idea of having famous people from seventies music portrayed in the show. The issue and mistake which Vinyl made however is that it was too much, someone should have informed that more times than not less is more. It would have seemed like a real treat and surprise for Bowie to show up, if it wasn’t for the fact that you were expecting someone. Instead of ‘oh wow it’s David Bowie!’ You got ‘oh…it’s David Bowie this week…’ There is a big difference. I want to eat a piece of cake, not be force fed the whole cake whilst having another one rubbed in my face, needless to say that subtlety wasn’t Vinyl’s strong point.
On paper Vinyl looked like it could have been an all-time great, but the expectations of what was to come, is ultimately what has left me so damn disappointed. They tried to blend Mad Men with Boardwalk Empire but they ended up with something which couldn’t hold a candle to either. Loved the idea, hated the execution.
For some reason it is getting a second season, which I can only assume is because it has Scorsese and Jagger on it. To think that we lost a season and a big chunk of Boardwalk Empire for this…the mind boggles.
So what did you think of the first season of Vinyl? Did you love all the music cameos? Did you think that the totally on the nose he’s imagining a dead man episode was good? Are you wondering how many cats the Finestra kids tossed off the balcony to see if their first test was an anomaly or the rule? Or if Skip Fontaine will actually appear on screen for more than a couple of minutes in the next season? Well leave a comment and share those thoughts!