5 THINGS THAT WENT WRONG WITH VINYL

NEW YORK – The new HBO show Vinyl is awful, but why?

We sent the Studio Exec FACT squad into the heart of the music business to find out what went wrong with the Martin Scorsese, Terrence Winter and Mick Jagger drama.

  1. Martin Scorsese, Terrence Winter and Mick Jagger are too in love with their subject. What should be the background to the drama – the music – is actually foregrounded. The drama of Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) and his wife Devon (Olivia Wilde) is so uninteresting that the show runners have no compunction in interrupting whatever is happening with a beautifully shot but essentially irrelevant music video. When the artists aren’t interested in their own characters, how can we expect the audience to give a shit?
  2. The building collapse that ended the way too long pilot might have happened in reality – read about the true story here – but if God was a screenwriter I would have fired him. It was a lazy grab at a visually interesting WTF! moment which beggared belief and gave the feeling that Terrence Winter had decided he didn’t have a kitchen sink to throw at the pilot, but he’d throw anything else he could lay his hands on.
  3. Famous people clutter the scene. Vinyl is set in the hay day of the seventies as punk begins to rear its dirty head on the horizon. The legendary groups such as Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull are about to give way to the New York Dolls and The Stranglers, The Sex Pistols and The Clash. The cultural shift takes place in episode two. But we also get to see The Velvet Underground in flashback. This is essentially the same arc as Mad Men, but whereas advertising features famous brands rather than people, the constant name dropping and cameos of rock gods and punk godfathers is distracting and kind of irritating. I’ve seen the documentary footage of Led Zeppelin’s famously incendiary manager yelling backstage and it was better than the glimpse we had.
  4. The Seventies. Sorry to mention Mad Men again, but that shows pristine production design was entirely in keeping with the shiny lines of its historical moment. In comparison Vinyl looks to CD or MP3. It’s too glossy. The women are millennial beauties; the musicians are talent show handsome. The punk band look like Coldplay cosplaying punk. In fact this whole venture feels like a very expensive, dramatically arid cosplay.
  5. Enough of the Don Draper shit already. US TV has been dominated now for years by protagonists who are all powerful men who do bad shit but we end up rooting for them regardless. From Tony Soprano and Walter White, to whoever Steve Buscemi was playing in Boardwalk Empire and Don Draper, so Richie is another such. His back story demands we take him seriously as the genuine article, but he is essentially another male power fantasy, surrounded by assholes – the Germans in the Polygram subplot has to go down as the easiest kowtowing to audience prejudice ever – who gets to be at the center of things. Like with Don Draper, we are supposed to respect the machinations and ‘creative genius’ of someone who is basically a business executive. He’s honest about ripping off the artists, but we’re supposed to like him. The musicians are seen as feckless dandies who need forming by the solid acumen of Richie. This is the Steve Jobs version of history and as much as I admire the promotion of Executives as ‘the unacknowledged legislators of mankind’, answer me this. If they were so all powerful, why did they put up with Ray Romano’s supremely irritating voice?

 For more FACTS on everything from this to that click HERE!

BOARDWALK EMPIRE: REVIEW

BOARDWALK EMPIRE: REVIEW – I started watching HBO‘s Boardwalk Empire when it premièred and I’m now struggling to finish the 3rd season. Everything boded well. Martin Scorsese and Terrence Winter, Tim Van Patten, a great cast: Michaels Pitt, Shannon and Kenneth Williams, Stephen Graham, Steve Buscemi and Kelly Macdonald. Sumptuous sets, high production values, the wonderful prohibition period of Once Upon a Time in America, whisky colored interiors and the manic rhythms of jazz. I started fast forwarding the show halfway through the second season.

What was wrong with it? Well, first off when a show boasts about how much it cost to reconstruct something you can bet that the show runners will try to get their money’s worth out of the furniture. I got bored of the magnificent establishing shots which never ever looked like a real place any more than Rome ever looked like Rome. Then there was the central casting of a brilliant bit player. Buscemi is a lot of things, but a romantic lead? No. He has no heft, no weight and no charisma. His bow-legged trot away from camera during the title sequence sets the tone. He looks like a someone you could knock over with a feather.

All the hallmarks of HBO productions now look like hallmarks: the sexposition, the OTT violence, the glossy production values that now get in front of the story. I began fast forwarding Kelly Macdonald’s Margaret Shroeder. Hard to think of a less interesting character lumbered with butt-aching story lines, none of which seem attached to the character as such. From tea-totalling to women’s health issues via a slap of catholic hypocrisy and making jollies with an ex-IRA terrorist, her hair sometimes changes but her pursed lips expression and her obnoxious children remain resistant to any temptation to like her.

But it wasn’t only her. The writers had effectively painted Michael Shannon’s glowering G-Man into one of the most uninteresting corners imaginable. When he turns up at the beginning of season 3 selling irons, you know it won’t be long before someone ends up wearing one as a facial piercing. Everything is telegraphed from a distance, which is at least consistent with the period. The villain obviously villainous; the innocent victims lined up to be despatched. This is the show that makes Al Capone a dull little man.

Anyway, it’s almost over and I shall stop occasionally to find out what happens. Hopefully, I won’t have to see many more naked beauties draped over Mr. Buscemi’s thankfully dressed form. And if you think I’ve been unkind, I’d like to point out, I’ve not used the word Sopranos once. Well, twice.