REVIEW: Vinyl – “Pilot”

Vinyl Reviewed

The following is a review of the first episode of Vinyl, available on HBO and HBO Nordic right now.

Vinyl, created by Martin Scorsese, Terence Winter, Mick Jagger, and Rich Cohen, follows Richie Finestra (played by Bobby Cannavale), a record executive for American Century on the cusp of a massive label buyout deal with a German company, as he tries to manage his crumpling label, his love for music, his family, and his sanity. The pilot episode was just released and it is an excellent piece of television.

Vinyl is Martin Scorsese’s Almost Famous, which is to say that this is a Scorsesean attempt at a Cameron Crowe film, and it feels just right. If you’ve been following Scorsese’s career, then you know that he has an affinity for this style and era of music. Scorsese masters the 1970s, and you won’t ever feel misplaced in the pilot episode.

Vinyl is in love with rock’n’roll and blues, and it is absolutely infectious. From the very beginning of the episode, to the very end, the musical current is just so strong and particular. You don’t get this level of musical quality on any show anymore. I found myself dancing and singing along, tapping my feet to the music.

Now, this could be viewed as simply a crutch for the show, but rest assured that the story itself is solid as well. They’ve crammed a lot of content into the pilot episode, but I think the show will be better because of it. They lay the groundwork for what could be an excellent debut season.

“You gotta face your fears…”

There are a lot of really great performances in this episode, with Bobby Cannavale, of course, being the shining star. He is a comfortable leading man, and his shifting persona over the course of the episode gives us a nice peek into the mind of our protagonist. I really loved seeing him with Lester Grimes (played by Ato Essandoh), a blues artist, when he was just a manager, and I hope to see Grimes’s and Finestra’s story continue to be interwoven. Juno Temple, who plays an assistant at Finestra’s label, was a really nice surprise. There’s a noticeable level of ambition at play here, and she could turn out to be this show’s very own version of Peggy Olsen.

I was a little bit worried about the inclusion of Ray Romano and Andrew Dice Clay, but I was happy to discover that both of them give credible performances in the pilot episode. I still need to adjust to seeing Romano in this kind of role, but I’m sure that will eventually turn out just right. Andrew Dice Clay, on the other hand, did everything he had to do in the role of the eccentric radio station-owning ‘Buck’ Rogers.

All in all, this was an amazing start for the newest HBO show, and a great episode for Martin Scorsese to direct. I am very excited for the future of the show. Next up is “Yesterday Once More”, directed by Alan Coulter.

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– I’m Jeffrey Rex