On the surface, it may not seem the most appropriate Valentine’s Day gift, but if you are as in love with rock’n’roll and storytelling from the likes of Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger, and Terence Winter, then HBO’s Vinyl is a TV kiss you don’t want to miss. Debuting on February 14 with a two-hour pilot directed by the Oscar winner, Vinyl, as I say in my video review above, literally and figuratively rocks.
And yes, from its NYC circa 1973 mean streets to blasting the New York Dolls, drugs and a body in the trunk of a car, you could call this 10-episode season GoodRecordFellas – in the best way. With its once-in-a-lifetime behind-the-camera trio and power chord-strong cast led by Boardwalk Empire alum Bobby Cannavale as struggling and stormy label boss Richie Finestra, Vinyl is a near note-perfect swaggering re-creation of a time when the misfit-attracting music biz was at the center of American culture and at its most influential.
Still, it is also a fine ensemble story about bad choices and trying to smooth off the rough edges and nasty bits to find a comfortable moral middle ground. In a tale full of skin, sex, coke, violence, dirty deals and dirtier money, there’s stellar support from Ray Romano, who seems decades away from Everyone Loves Raymond as a duplicitous, coke-hoovering record promotions man; breakouts from Juno Temple and James Jagger; and another knock-it-out of the park performance from Andrew Dice Clay, as a radio exec with monster appetites. Having said that, while there’s plenty of spilt pills and blood here, the real heart of Vinyl is Olivia Wilde. As Richie’s former downtown party girl-turned-cleaned up Connecticut-based wife Devon, the former House M.D. actress is the drama’s stealthily solid center.
This being a Scorsese effort in part, and with the greatest rock’n’roll frontman of all time on board, there is also a ton of great music in Vinyl – a lot of it onstage. To that end, there are cameos of sorts by Led Zeppelin, Elvis, Little Richard, Lou Reed, Otis Redding and Alice Cooper to name a few in the era just before NYC invented punk and hip-hop emerged from the Bowery and the Bronx. Surprisingly, with all Vinyl’s obvious attention to tone and minute period detail, the fact that the actor playing Peter Grant is more svelte than the real-life and notoriously confrontational Led Zep manager was noticeable to me – but I’m undoubtedly in the music geek minority there.
What should not be a minority opinion is how Vinyl doesn’t miss a beat. Like a well-sequenced album, the slightly nostalgic but pulsating series has an ebb and flow that stays in its own groove.
So get on the dance floor with Vinyl. Check out my video review then tell us what you think. Will you be watching on Valentine’s Day?
This review was originally posted on February 9.