Vinyl: Pilot
February 16, 2016 6:24 AM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

In the pilot episode of Vinyl we meet Richie Finestra, head executive of the American Century record label. American Century appears to be failing, with a stable of increasingly irrelevant and mismatched artists who mostly produce flops. However, as Richie is on the brink of selling the business and making his exit, an unfortunate incident and a chance encounter with New York's burgeoning punk scene gives him reason to reconsider his career move and his sobriety.

The pilot was directed by Scorsese, who is one of the primary minds behind the show, along with Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. Terence Winter (of Boardwalk Empire and The Sopranos) claims the writing credit.

The NYT like a lot of it, but finds the overarching story lacking. The AV Club gives it a B-, seems to concur, with some skepticism about the rock-n-roll romanticism that's apparent in the first episode.
posted by codacorolla (16 comments total)
 
I feel like it has potential but the pilot was kind of all over the place. A few random thoughts:

The building collapse was... dumb? I mean the building literally collapsed on top of him and he got up, brushed himself off, and walked away. Was that a dream?

It's going to be tough seeing real artists played by other people. Robert Plant and Peter Grant were convincing enough, as was Page from behind and a silent Bonham. Was that an actual Led Zeppelin song they were playing or was it just something that sounded like them? I know they're famously tough on allowing their music to be used.

I cringed when he smashed his Bo Diddly guitar.

I'm curious about anyone who wasn't around in the 1970s if they think the smoking is over-done. As someone who was around then it makes me cringe because I just remember everyone smoking everywhere and I wonder why nobody minded that the air was always clouded with smoke.

Some day I want to have a meeting in a room where there is also an orgy happening. I don't expect it will happen at my current job.

Man, there sure are a lot of drugs being used.

I don't remember Andrew Dice Clay sounding so much like the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz.

Sweet Sassy Molassey !

I'll give it another episode or two but if it doesn't grab me by then I'll give up on it.
posted by bondcliff at 7:13 AM on February 16, 2016


I watched a fair bit of it and while I will, out of due diligence, probably see the rest, I kinda wonder if that will change anything for me. What I saw was the worst sort of calcification of Scorsese's already dated Goodfellas schtick. Macho dudes doing drugs on scuzzy streets, drinking straight from whiskey bottles, calling each other faggot, fetishized '70s fashion and cars.

I'd noticed how much of an alternate reality/closed universe/cliche this was becoming during David O/ Russell's American Hustle, which was just awful for this. And now we have Scorsese himself treating Tortured 70s Tough Guy and His Life of Excess movie as a genre, as hoary and cliched and rote as any late era Western or third wave blaxploitation picture. It's a very particular kind of fantasy world and it bored the shit out of me frankly.

At this point in filmic history, it doesn't feel like there is anything new or worthwhile to be said about blow-snorting NYC badasses with open collars and classic cars. Not even by shifting them into music for their vocation.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:56 AM on February 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


I have a feeling history is going to consider Vinyl the Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip to The Deuce's 30 Rock. The latter, David (The Wire) Simon's upcoming HBO series about twin brothers at center of the NYC Time Square porn boom sounds a bit more promising. It's based on audio diaries left behind by one of the brothers that recount the history of that era as a series of bawdy, nostalgic fond memories, even as they deal with some of the same grimy history.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:13 AM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


It certainly isn't going to be the new Mad Men, and the Seedy Seventies were kind of overplayed since... well, the actual seventies.
I'll probably stick with it because it has the potential to do interesting stuff in the future - Disco, Punk and Electronic music (plus Swedish pop) are all around the corner, and Richie seems the kind of guy to go where money is (and then ruin it)

Was that a dream?
I'm going with cocaine hallucination.
posted by lmfsilva at 8:18 AM on February 16, 2016


Is this Empire for white people?
posted by tobascodagama at 8:21 AM on February 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


I feel pretty much the same way. It was visually stunning for a TV show, thanks to Scorsese's hand, but the story doesn't really do much for me. I just don't care that much about this guy, and his struggles to be rich and successful. Mad Men did it, and it seems like it did it while letting in a lot of voices that weren't just old white guys. I guess it doesn't help that a lot of the music just felt like wallpaper for me. I will watch the next episode, but I'm not holding out a lot of hope here.
posted by codacorolla at 8:44 AM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


As someone who was around then it makes me cringe because I just remember everyone smoking everywhere and I wonder why nobody minded that the air was always clouded with smoke.

Anecdote, more towards the later 70's: My mother worked as a secretary at a Catholic elementary school. She had an ashtray at her desk.

But yeah, I have to agree with everyone else here.
posted by Lucinda at 11:42 AM on February 16, 2016


The building collapse was... dumb? I mean the building literally collapsed on top of him and he got up, brushed himself off, and walked away. Was that a dream?

I think it's supposed to recall the actual collapse of the Mercer Arts Center, famous as an early venue for the New York Dolls, though in real life the band wasn't performing when the building came down. (I think there were shows scheduled on the day of the collapse, though I don't think it was the Dolls. While there wasn't a crowd in the building at the time, some people did die in the crash.)
posted by layceepee at 12:19 PM on February 16, 2016




Also, I think I sort of undersold it, but this show looked AMAZING. I really, really wish that it hadn't been attached to that story, because Scorsese essentially treated this like a single shot movie instead of a TV episode. The man has talent, even if he hasn't got taste.
posted by codacorolla at 9:03 PM on February 16, 2016


Was that an actual Led Zeppelin song they were playing or was it just something that sounded like them?

It was not an actual LZ song (source: me, a rabid LZ fan back in the day who accumulated every bootleg record and tape). TBH though, passable LZ can be had simply by singing baby baby baby baby baby baby baby over a beefy syncopated drum beat. That was a very passable blue shirt on fauxPlant too, he wore one that looked like that all through the '73 tour.

Oh yeah and the show. I'll keep watching but I'm struggling to care about the characters over recognizing rock trivia moments.
posted by jamaro at 10:26 PM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's a bad sign when a show gets to its orgy scene and the viewer is thinking, "Christ, how much more of this episode is there??"

Vinyl reminded me of Almost Famous, in that in the immediate aftermath of watching it I decided I hated rock music and everyone involved in its manufacture and appreciation.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:37 AM on February 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


I just don't care that much about this guy, and his struggles to be rich and successful. Mad Men did it, and it seems like it did it while letting in a lot of voices that weren't just old white guys.

You're giving short shrift to the setup of the Lester Grimes storyline (in the pilot, no less). Grimes is the blues singer who ends up stuck in an endless contract to be a top-40 singer while Finestra takes a sack of cash and jumps ship. I was glad to see this play out overtly, as it was a common thing that happened to black singers at the time. I can't think of any fictional movies/TV that put that kind of story front and center, not pulling any punches on the racism. I hope they continue to do that, and NOT in the Mad Men way of "oh yeah, weren't white people such STINKERS about black people in the 60s?" where they still sideline all the black characters. We never followed Dawn home the way we followed Sal home, for instance. (And I LOVED Mad Men.)

I'm not saying it was a perfect pilot, but pilots are rarely perfect. I am looking forward to more episodes.

I will add the disclaimer that my undying love for Bobby Cannavale (have loved him since The Station Agent and Kingpin- the tv series, not the bowling movie) predisposes me to like this show. I love seeing him pop up in things and I hope this ends up being a good series for him.

AND RAY ROMANO, YOU GUYS.
posted by aabbbiee at 7:58 AM on February 18, 2016


Renewed for a second season.
posted by jamaro at 9:51 PM on February 18, 2016


Forced myself through the first episode like a sausage through a keyhole. Awful. Never again.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:44 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Peter Grant was a huge guy, intimidating. Rather like how on Boardwalk Empire they cast a short guy for the much larger Al Capone. Things like that really took me out of this. Really hard to watch this, and I can't imagine it getting much better.
posted by Catblack at 12:53 PM on February 29, 2016


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