Sunday, February 21, 2016

Vinyl Recap. Season 1. Episode 2: Yesterday Once More

Swinging Vine: June Temple as Jamie Vine, grabs the spotlight in episode two.
What Worked, Vinyl, Episode 2: 
  • The way the music was threaded through almost every scene.  And kudos to the sound editor.  Each song was dramatically introduced.  
  • Ray Romano.  He continues to shine in this series with lines delivered both seriously and with needed levity (to what is a very dark series).
  • The Watergate hearings playing on Richie's tv in his office. Nice subtle touch that really announces that this series takes place in the early 70s when the political climate was dark and twisted.  
  • Jamie Vine asks Richie for a job on the A&R staff.  Good back and forth between the two of them.  
  • Julius Silver's criticism of the punk rock band.  He may be a schmuck but he's got a good ear. 

What Didn't Work, Vinyl Episode 2:
  • Cliches.  Coke-snorting record executive.  A record executive screwing a beautiful woman in grungy rock club bathroom.  Crazy behavior in the record company's office.  Very little in this series surprises me.  
  • Bobby Cannavale.  Wildly uneven performance.  Some scenes bordered on campy like when he broke down in tears after the detective visited him.  He went way over the top in his coke-fueled scene when he turned down the buy-out offer from the Germans.  The scene in the movie theater was stupid that was meant to set up him going kung fu on his senior executives (another stupid scene).
  • The Andy Warhol scenes.  Never felt real.  
  • Ray Romano's family scenes (especially with his wife).  Ugly Jewish stereotype.
Overall Grade for Vinyl Episode 2: (C)  This series often feels half baked.  It lacks originality and wit. And it continues to be dark.  What it has is energy.  I wouldn't be surprised if the audience begins to wither.  

Friday, February 12, 2016

Vinyl Recap. Season One. Episode One (Pilot)

HBO's go-to star:  Bobby Cannavale as Richie Finnestra
What Worked, Vinyl, Episode 1: 

  • The way the show was bookended by the great rendition of the song "Personality."  Really set the tone.
  • Ray Romano as Walter Yetnikoff...uh....Zak Yankovich.  He brought some nice comic relief to a two-hour show that was very dark (although he overdid it a few times).  Best line:  "I'm a Jew.  When Germans say they're going to be diligent, we go to the attic and write a diary."
  • Great period details from the graffiti-splattered subways to a middle-age woman reading "Fear of Flying." 
  • Andrew Dice Clay's "Do I look like an asshole?" rap.  Echoed Joe Pesci's "Do I look like a funny guy" rap from "Goodfellas."
  • The scene where Richie Finnestra sells his stake in the company for $150,000....but he can't get Jimmy Little out of his contract.
  • The beating of Jimmy Little.  The kick in the neck was brutal -- he'll never sing again.
  • Jamie Vine "discovering" punk rocker Kip Stevens.  That felt real.  

What Didn't Work, Vinyl Episode 1:

  • Overproduction.  It's like director Martin Scorsese had too much money (and time) for this two-hour pilot.  Did the introductory scene with radio station owner Buck Rogers (played by Andrew Dice Clay playing Andrew Dice Clay) really have to take place in a sex club with those carefully contrived shots?  Same with Finnestra's long, drawn-out birthday party at his house.
  • The yelling.  Too many over-the-top scenes of people yelling especially when Richie Finnestra dresses down his A&R staff and Zepplin's manager also yells at Richie's staff (they are pin cushions).  
  • (SPOILER ALERT HERE) The murder of Buck Rogers by Richie's fixer.  The prelude to the head-smashing was loud and drawn out.  And the reason for the second round of head-smashing was perplexing.  And why would Richie agree to cover up murder?  This was the worst written scene in the pilot.  
  • The collapse of the rock club at the conclusion of the pilot.  Huh?  Why did that happen.  (Also: see overproduction)
Overall Grade for Vinyl Episode 1: (B-)  Loud, long and messy.  But there's no denying there's a great story in "Vinyl" that just might be told in the coming weeks.  I'm not totally sold on Bobby Cannavale -- he looks a lot beefier than he did as the sleek, cool-as-ice gangster in HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" and that's not a good thing.  Perhaps when the episodes are an hour long, "Vinyl" will be tighter and more compelling.  As one might expect, the music rocks.