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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
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NEW YORK – Sesame Street is now on HBO but the cable company are denying that they have interfered with content.
Beloved children’s program Sesame Street is at the center of a new controversy following the revelation that the cable company wishes to introduce its trademark adult orientated content. Dave Begby of Television Today told the Studio Exec EXCLUSIVELY that HBO were interfering with many of the creative decisions in the making of the show:
I know a few people who are on the inside of the production and there is a lot of feeling there that they have changed a number of things to bring the show more into line with shows that HBO have done in the past. Like The Wire, The Sopranos and Deadwood for instance.
But those shows were aimed at an …
An adult audience. Yes, absolutely. But HBO have come to regard swearing, nudity, violence and sex-position as part of their DNA. And this has seen some very strange decision on Sesame Street.
Okay. So give me an example.
Where to begin? Bert and Ernie are now two sexy chicks who get it on constantly. The Cookie Monster is a crack smoking hobo. Oscar the Grouch speaks like Al Swearengen. Kermit the Frog still reports for Sesame Street News, but it’s all drive by shootings and gangland slaughter and Big Bird runs a crime syndicate that controls everything that goes on in the neighborhood. In fact, that song ‘The People that You Meet in the Neighborhood’ sums it up. It now sounds like Travis Bickle’s monologue from Taxi Driver put to music.
Sesame Street is now available on HBO.
HOLLYWOOD – When we watched the cut to black on the final episode of the final season of The Sopranos, there were more than a few critics among us scratching our heads, but David Chase has EXCLUSIVELY revealed the story behind that famous and much discussed final scene.
It’s hard to believe that the HBO prodigy that brought us one of the most successful television dramas in history David Chase is only thirty three years old. His youthful verve and energy makes him seem like a kid half the age. He bounds into The Studio Exec offices and claps his hands.
So what do you want to know? Oh, the final scene of The Sopranos? Well, sure. Why not? So we got Tony and Carmela and little A.J. sitting in the restaurant and they’re waiting for Meadow and there are all these other people around who might be hit men, FBI, or just diners and we’re tense we know something is going on. And the song that is playing is the Don’t Stop Believing by Journey. As the family gather they chit chat, but Meadow has yet to arrive. We see her having difficulty parking and the tension builds, because we know this is nearing the end of the last episode so something must happen right. So when she comes in Tony looks up and the music is cued perfectly and they both sing the chorus of Don’t Stop Believing. Then Carmela joins in and A.J. too. Then – and this was brilliant – the guy in the grey jacket who goes into the bathroom, he suddenly bursts out of the bathroom and you think ‘oh my God this is the hit, this is it; it’s going down’, but no. Actually he’s holding a saxophone and he blows the sweetest kick ass sax solo you ever heard. So we filmed it, cut it and we were ready to screen it and then word came down from on high that HBO were unhappy. Tonally inconsistent, they said. It was too late to change anything, or film an alternative ending and so we just cut it before Meadow came in singing.
The Sopranos spin off Meadow and A.J.’s Rockabilly Sixties Tribute Band will be broadcast next Monday on HBO.