The seventies are known as a hazy time in American history. However, many people don’t know how transformative the decade was for history, and for American culture. Politically speaking, the country was a mess, but we won’t go there. Indeed, the seventies were known as one of the greatest decades for cinema – it was an era when movies broke out of the studio system. Musically speaking, the 70s were the halcyon days for rock n’ roll and other musical genres, like punk and no wave and new folk. This is where the new television show Vinyl comes in.
In the end, it may take a few more episodes for people to fall in love, but they will fall in love with Vinyl.
Strangely enough, or maybe not strangely enough, Vinyl is the brainchild of legendary director Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger, writer and novelist Rich Cohen and screenwriter Terence Winter. Of course, everyone knows Terence Winter from his work on The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire; two of the greatest shows on HBO’s roster of groundbreaking shows. And HBO is also where Vinyl lives, naturally, what other network could you show such a genius show with so much decadence and NSFW content?
Vinyl takes place in the 70s, when the music industry was drastically shifting. Record companies were battling with irrelevancy and so were the artists on their roster. Plus, record execs had to deal with a rapidly changing music scene. People were sick of disco and wanted the loud angst of punk. Many of those record execs are exactly like Vinyl’s antihero Richie Finestra, played by the brilliant Bobby Cannavale. Richie is dealing with cash flow problems and the tides of history. With a brilliant ear for a hit record, Richie is having a personality crisis and all the cocaine is probably not helping.
The show opens as Richie and his partner are about to get out of the music industry and live a quiet life in the country. A major German label wants to buy them out. It’s a good deal. Everyone will get rich. However, Richie has different plans. He realizes he loves the game too much. After his first experience seeing a live punk band and surviving a building collapse, Richie has an epiphany and decides that he doesn’t want to sell. After a big fight with his partners, a murder, a few mountains of cocaine, he shaves off 70% of the company’s roster of musical artists and starts at square one.
So, that’s where we’re at now with the first season of Vinyl, which is shaping up to be one of the most exciting new shows on TV. Of course, there are a few flaws. The actors that play of the musicians of the day, like Robert Plant or Otis Redding, are a bit embarrassing. The role of Andy Warhol is probably the most embarrassing, but the quality of the show, the storyline the raw emotional nuance is enough to dismiss all of that.