TV Review: Vinyl - Season 1, Episode 1

PLOT: Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale), a high-flying record exec, tries to resurrect his dying label in the midst of a changing time for rock music.

REVIEW: It figures that what promises to be the definitive TV work about rock n’roll would come from Martin Scorsese, a director whose big-screen opuses are like rock n’roll put to celluloid. Working with Mick Jagger and his Boardwalk Empire show-runner Terrence Winter, Vinyl is an atmospheric, propulsive journey through rock circa the early seventies, likely the last golden era for the form with the eighties and nineties giving way to pop dominance on the charts.

More than a simple elegy for rock, what Vinyl does is that it tries to evoke just what the music meant to a whole generation. Our anti-hero Richie not above weeping at a Led Zeppelin concert despite only minutes earlier trying to screw them in a record deal. In a way, rock is just a big a star here as Cannavale is, with the first episode presenting in incredible array of super-hits from the era that must have made the music licensing a nightmare (although who wouldn’t want their stuff featured in something to do with Scorsese?).

Just like a good rock song, Vinyl starts off with a killer hook, with a strung-out Richie buying coke off street dealers, breaking off his car’s rear-view mirror in order to do lines off it, and then stumbling into a raging New York Dolls concert. With a floor littered with needles, Scorsese evokes the grunginess of the era like the master he is. After all, he was there.

Running just a hair under two hours, Vinyl’s first episode is more than a pilot. You could put this out theatrically and it would get critical raves as the new Scorsese film, that’s the energy he puts into it. It has all his trademarks, with a crazy fast pace, a live-wire performance by the amazing Cannavale, and some incredible set pieces, including a late-night coke session with Andrew “Dice” Clay’s radio DJ Buck Rogers that’s as crazy as anything in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET.

The only issue with the pilot being so wild is that it puts a ton of pressure on the rest of the series to live up to it. Scorsese also directed the Boardwalk Empire pilot, and the rest of the show was radically different than what it seemed to promise (although it was just as amazing in it’s own way). Even if the pace slows down, Vinyl’s got so much going for it, with the chief asset being Cannavale.

After his Emmy-winning turn as Gyp Rosetti on Boardwalk Empire, he’s a logical choice to play Richie. Richie is an ideal cable anti-hero. He may be coke-fueled and often crazy, but his love of music is nothing if not honest, with the initial premise being his conflict over selling his label to Polygram. It’s not hard to imagine the character becoming another complex small-screen icon.

Cannavale dominates, but the rest of the cast is similarly good, with Ray Romano stealing scenes as Richie’s partner, the guy in charge of paying off DJ’s to play their hits (a common practice of the era). Juno Temple is also very promising as a young A&R (artists and representation) worker, with a line on punk rock and a drawer full of hardcore drugs. Olivia Wilde grounds the show as seemingly the only character not on what Richie calls “sugar”, as his grounded wife, albeit one who seems to have her own baggage as I’m sure will be explored later.

As with Boardwalk Empire, Vinyl’s off to an amazing start and if they can keep the momentum, HBO has got another Emmy juggernaut on their hands while we’ve got more appointment viewing. Sex, drugs and rock n’roll people. That’s what this show is, and it’s a ride you won’t want to miss.

Source: JoBlo.com

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