‘Vinyl’ A Brilliant Look at Rock and Roll Glory Days (TV REVIEW)

[rating=8.00] “Pilot”

There’s a lot of expectations coming with Vinyl, a show that’s creative team involves director Martin Scorsese and Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger that co-creator Terence Winter rushed through one final season of Boardwalk Empire to shift all his focus on this tale of music industry debauchery circa-1973. It was that same year that Scorsese released his first feature film, a gritty, hard-nosed crime tale called Mean Streets that opened with a lamentation about sin and guilt before cranking up The Ronettes “Be My Baby.”

Since then, Scorsese has been packing his films to the brim with this kind of music he loves, and this puts him square in his element, at the helm of a passionate, violent, drug-addled melodrama about that music. With that in mind, here’s our top five countdown of Vinyl‘s greatest hits.

5. Jamie Vine

To start, this is not a list in any sort of order in importance, and Jamie’s placement on it is due entirely to the fact that her character was what a lot of people will take away from the first viewing. While her story arc is looking to mime Peggy’s from Mad Men—the sandwich girl who ‘discovers’ the hot new band that may save American Century Records—Juno Temple brings some extra charisma to a role that might have slipped between the cracks otherwise. After the riot breaks out at the Nasty Bits show, she later tells the frontman, Kip (played by Mick Jagger’s son, James), to make the fact that everyone hates him his “thing.” It’s a stupendous moment that may get retold to backfit the show’s own timeline (more on that below).

4. The ungodly runtime

Speaking of Jamie’s power move, it was right around the time she was creating her own corner of future rock and roll culture that I paused it specifically to see how much time was left, knowing I was already about an hour in. “JESUS CHRIST TWO HOURS!?” I said to myself, out loud, while home alone. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve sat through my share of four hour films, but to introduce a story with a pilot episode that clocks in at longer than most movies is a daunting expectation to lure in new viewers.

3. Those incredibly weird moments

When you really look back at his body of work, Scorsese is a pretty unconventional filmmaker. While all of his films have moments that would seem strangely out of place in the vision of another director, his prestige has earned him the right to indulge himself in any way he pleases, and here, does he ever indulge. From the weird cutaways of a lookalike Bo Diddly when Richie is gifted his original guitar to the surrealist ending that reshapes a piece of rock history to fill its own narrative, the show is set to take full advantage of Richie’s admitted brain damage when setting up the story.

2. All that Scorsesian violence

Violent content is certainly nothing new for Scorsese, but leave it to the guy who put Donovan’s “Atlantis” on the soundtrack while Billy Batts is savagely beaten midway through Goodfellas to pair up an incredibly violent act with a song that contradicts it. Just as the show was beginning to get mired in itself, Richie’s visit to an old friend goes south real fast, providing a couple moments of genuine shock. Add to that a reminder near the end of the episode that the mafia has some real aggressive sway in the music business, you’re left with a sobering reminder of the drug, alcohol, and money-fueled consequences of this world.

1. Peter Grant

This was the absolute best scene the pilot, and an early contender for the best scene in the first season. For about two minutes, Ian Hart, an actor who played John Lennon a couple times in the 90s, completely embodied everything that you’d always heard about Led Zeppelin’s notoriously acerbic and ill-tempered manager Peter Grant. These are the kinds of cameos the show will hopefully do wonders with.

Bonus track: Olivia Wilde

We didn’t get nearly enough of her as Devon, Richie’s wife, in the pilot, which was astounding, considering it was a movie-length episode of TV. However, her jaw-dropping response to Richie when he asks her for help may have been the most promising moment for the new series so far.


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3 Responses

  1. I did NOT think it was ‘brilliant’ – big and ballsy, yes, and I always like Bobby Cannavale whatever he does, and Jagger’s son was surprisingly good for the few moments he was allowed to shine, but I thought that by-and-large Vinyl was a minor trainwreck – too long by far and all over the place, and that club collapsing? Puh-leeze! In place of back-story and true historic perspective, the conceit of sticking mini-vidoes from 50s look-a-like artists actually did little to illuminate, although those bits were among the most entertaining things about the pilot. I don’t see where this show – so far – with all it’s mind blowing world-class talent did anything ground-breaking or illuminating, covering area that’s already been mined in films like ‘Rock Star,’ ‘Velvet Goldmine,’ even ‘This is Spinal Tap.’ I found more originality and authenticity in the low budget highly fictionized story of ‘C.B.G.B.s’; with Alan Rickman. For this viewer (who also happens to be a recording artist and producer who was there in the 70s) I’ll give it one more shot, but if episode 2 continues to be as disjointed and broken as the pilot, I’m done.

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