‘Vinyl’ Had Their Worst Episode Yet. It Was Still Pretty Good. (TV REVIEW)

[rating=6.00] “Whispered Secrets”

One of the major missteps in Vinyl’s pilot, aside from being overstuffed to the point of being considered long for a movie, was the scene with Richie Finestra and Robert Plant backstage at Madison Square Garden. While the setting was ideal, and sure, it gave us the Peter Green outburst, which has been the absolute best part of the show so far, having such an iconic figurehead of rock and roll played by another actor is going to invariably take us out of the moment.

It has managed its way around this predicament with varying success, alternating to have Julian Casablancas droll through Velvet Underground’s “Venus In Furs” under the flickering lights of projectors, or The New York Dolls pulsate their set as the building they’re playing in collapses around them. In this sense, they’re not characters, but set-pieces, but ones that tell an essential aspect of the story and its fictionalized corner of rock history narrated by the admittedly drug-addled and brain-damaged narrator.

This week was a major misstep on that front, which comes disappointingly early in the show’s run. While there were some deep cuts in the mix, here’s a breakdown of Vinyl’s greatest hits for this week.

5. Zach Yankovich

He had a strong showing last week, building him up as a put-upon husband and father, put into a further dilemma by Richie opting to not sell American Century Records, and contemplating some very serious things in his garage before deciding just to take it out on his tail lights. He didn’t have near that meaty to chew on this week, but during their roster-trimming meeting, his “Well, that’s great, Mr. Video” response to Richie’s erratic proclamations about the future was fantastic.

4. Taking on a little water

As Richie looks to both carry the torch for what his record label as been as well as redefine what it will be for the future, his meeting with Hal, the PR guy, he manically tries to explain the plan that he most certainly does not have. Hal also makes it to be the only male employee that he hasn’t threatened with an ultimatum, fired, or physically attacked so far. He also gets to name the new in-house label imprint, so Hal’s got it pretty good at American Century.

3. Jamie’s showcase redemption

It was inevitable that Julie’s redirection of The Nasty Bitz by way of a Kinks cover would be disastrous, despite him desperately clinging to Richie’s coattails through his relapse into self-destruction. The fevered argument between them and Jamie, their self-appointed manager, shouted over the band did just enough to light the fuse, and as she ferociously made her way through the crowd and reclaimed the moment as her own.

It’s moments like this that is Vinyl at its second-best (more on that in a second), when it builds its own world of punk-rock make believe against the already saturated canvas of its backstory with New York. Also, under the direction of former music video auteur Mark Romanek, he captures something when the band is on stage,ese moments of raw sensationalism that channels Scorsese’s raw rock and roll vision.

2. Too many celebrity impressions

If the second-best moments happen within Vinyl’s own fictitious insertion into rock’s lexicon, its best happens when it explores the characters that exist in margins. This week, we got a long, meandering subplot involving Alice Cooper, played by Dustin Ingram, who sounds much like Cooper’s history lesson he gives in the middle of the first Wayne’s World movie.

While Ingram does fine, it’s absolutely unnecessary. Yes, it’s accurate in that he loved to golf and had a snake, it doesn’t do anything to further anything important in the story. There are enough spinning plates here that we don’t need a woefully inexperienced Clark being drank under the table and taunted by a Vegas shadow.

Add to that an expanded role for Andy Warhol this time around, and it’s an episode as equally overstuffed as the pilot, but at only half the runtime.

1. “…the album?”

Back to the roster cutting, as they’re making their way down the list and Richie looks at Julie and asks “Who’s next?,” Julie’s answer is a delightful rock and roll Easter egg.

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