Just like many of the places where records are bought and sold, Vinyl is dead. HBO’s initial decision to renew its troubled Jagger and Scorsese-backed period drama for a second season turned out to be the kind of coke-fueled promise whose emptiness is revealed in the the light of day. The show’s premise seemed straightforward and interesting enough: a behind the scenes look at the music industry in 70’s New York through the eyes of a record executive in search of something authentic and exciting enough to save his floundering label. It turns out the show suffered from the kind of Personality Crisis that the New York Dolls warned about during their appearance in the pilot. Was it actually a mob drama? Entourage thrown in a hot tub time machine? Boardwalk Empire with worse hair? In its ambitious effort to shine a spotlight on the glamorous excess and seedy maneuvering in the music biz, the show found itself stretched far too thin. Add in the combination of sloppy execution and a complete lack of subtlety that would make the Ramones blush, and you’ve got the recipe for a show that rightfully deserved its cancellation.
On paper, Vinyl was right up my alley. From the moment I saw the trailer, I figured I’d eventually write something lauding its accurate portrayal of a fascinating time and place in the history of rock ‘n roll, or else self-indulgently expound on what I would have done differently. Eventually, though, I just wanted to survive the show. As the back half of the season wore me down, exasperated shouts of “oh GOD DAMN IT…” rang through my apartment each week at the exact moment I realized I’d have to endure another episode1via a friend’s friend’s parents’ HBO Go account. I lost access to it shortly after the season finished. I guess the parents knew that someone was using the account because only an asshole would watch all of Vinyl.. Somehow, my masochistic desire to finish the damn thing defied all logic or reason. I was addicted to the idea of creating Vinyl-based content, to furthering my personal brand via smartass references to a cultural moment that came and went years before I was even born.
In the wake of Vinyl’s cancellation and in an effort to extract some small shred of meaning from my misguided suffering, I’ve assembled some highlights from the real-time notes I took while watching each episode. Though not my initial intent, these “lost thinkpiece demo tapes” chronicle my descent into madness. They’re mostly presented without context, because any attempt to establish context means you’ve already wasted more time thinking about Vinyl than you should have. Think of this as the captain’s log from HBO’s eleven hour2pilot clocked in at about two hours coke-fueled orgy that even Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood would find excessive, depraved and altogether unnecessary.
Basically, the whole thing was an excuse for Martin Scorsese to remake a two hour long movie set in New York in the 70’s that doesn’t have to have an ending. Pilot sets up the characters of Richie (label head played by Bobby Canavale), his wife Devin (Olivia Wilde), the band The Nasty Bitz that are kind of punk in a way that didn’t really exist in 1973, and a bunch of the minor characters whose names aren’t really that important.
- It took me about 45 minutes in until I realized that Zach, head label money-guy, is played by Ray Romano in a hairpiece.
- Girl who wants to climb up the A&R ranks sleeps with the lead dude from The Nasty Bitz (Mick Jagger’s son in his first real and hopefully last real acting role), and says they sound like “The Neon Boys,” a band featuring Richard Hell that hardly recorded and LITERALLY NEVER played a show.
- Scorsese very obviously recycled b-roll from Taxi Driver for some of the establishing shots of “gritty 1973 New York”
- Richie relapses on coke and a ceiling falls on his head while the New York Dolls play a show. This is shortly after he murders a guy
- This is like Mad Men but with everyone doing coke. Some asshole is already dead because he did coke every time he saw it on screen
- Yo is he gonna bang Olivia Wilde in the bathroom of Andy Warhol’s Factory at a Velvet Underground show?
- Olivia Wilde loves Karen Carpenter and Tuinal so much that she left her kids at an iHop
- Julie (male head of A&R) is stoked on Nasty Bitz compromising their artistic ideals, which I guess is kind of how a record label works
- “They don’t give a shit about music. That’s why they make money”
- Talking about good music in one breath and in the next about making a Christmas album with Robert Goulet
- Why do the Nasty Bitz need 3 guitarists to play bad protopunk?
- Blackmail via having to record like a 70’s version of Meghan Trainor
- Johnny thunders looks like an asshole. Did he even know Alice Cooper?
- A&R guy thinks the Nasty Bitz suck balls and Humble Pie is good.
- “Welcome to American century. Get ready to take it up the ass”
- Kool Herc name dropped even though hip hop does not even remotely exist yet.
- Lolol they’re clearly using Rough Trade in Williamsburg as a set.
- “I just bought a bumper pool table! I can’t be out of work right now!”
- Nihilists, but at a record label.
- “The idea is new and not fed through a machine so hard that you can’t feel the intestines of the music” -directly contradictory of like five minutes ago.
- She’s banging him so he won’t do heroin
- *Literally the next thing I wrote down* Big Star and heroin!
- Julian Casablancas can’t sing Lou Reed. Kind of unfortunate.
- Richie would vote for trump.
- Nude Olivia Wilde!
- We don’t know why
- Lol Richie beat up Andy Warhol
- Episode written by David Matthews, which is definitely a bad omen
- HAHAHA RICHIE PAYS $1100 A MONTH FOR A PENTHOUSE WHICH IS LESS THAN I’M PAYING TO LIVE IN A FUCKING CLOSET THE RENT IS TOO DAMN HIGH
- MALE BONDING ON A PRIVATE PLANE
- Oh shit is Ray Romano going to have a threesome? That’s totally what’s about to happen. But Richie is a FAMILY man. Who has cocaine placed right in front of his face and he’s thinking very hard about doing it, and he’s going to do it because he’s apparently very powerless to resist the temptation of sex. OH WAIT HE DIDN’T DO IT? Legitimately surprising.
- To Elvis: “You’re gonna die a rich man fifty years from now” LOL TRY IN FOUR ON A TOILET
Episode 8, or, What Am I Really Expecting At This Point?
- I guess they blew the acting talent budget on getting rights to Beatles songs?
- “I built this company on drugs. It’s when I was sober that I fucked everything up… drug use. NOT Abuse. I need to focus to be at the top of my game. Freud, Edison and Sherlock Holmes all thrived on cocaine.”
- PLEASE STOP SINGING YOU ARE MAKING EVERYONE UNCOMFORTABLE
- This is the part where they try to make it a gangster police procedural
- Lawyer dude definitely gay
Episode 9: I guess I might as well finish this out
- Good to know that guy from the Sonic commercials is in other things too
- Oh great now a dude’s penis
- PATTI SMITH WAS NOT RECORDING DEMOS IN 1973 STOP IT NO
- And now they invented disco
Episode 10: Hallelujah free at last
- Why is an Italian man singing in an empty warehouse
- Now Richie is trying to discover hip hop while arguing over royalties with the dude he fucked over from the very beginning
- Now Ray Romano is gonna OD and kill himself or something, but I guess Richie bought him a new pair of shoes so maybe not?
- Ok they just invented CBGB’s out of thin air for no reason
- “Whatever happens tonight, I remain as confused as ever.” Yup. Right there with you. Good riddance
References [ + ]
|1.||↵||via a friend’s friend’s parents’ HBO Go account. I lost access to it shortly after the season finished. I guess the parents knew that someone was using the account because only an asshole would watch all of Vinyl.|
|2.||↵||pilot clocked in at about two hours|