TV review: Vinyl, Sky Atlantic
Thrilling 70s rock'n'roll drama created by Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger, Rich Cohen and Terrence Winter
Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger (The Rolling Stones, the band), Rich Cohen (Rolling Stone, the magazine) and Terrence Winter (Boardwalk Empire / The Sopranos) are pretty much the dream team when it comes to creating a TV series set in the world of 70s rock. And Vinyl doesn't squander that promise with this classy two hour pilot, directed by Scorsese himself, that encapsulates the glamour, glitz and squalor of the era.
New York, 1973, Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) sits slumped in his car swigging hard liquor, scoring an eight ball. The very personification of desperation. His saviour is rock'n'roll. He has an epiphany among the night-time freaks watching lipstick-smeared proto punks The New Dolls. It's a scene that captures the rush and euphoria of live music.
That energy courses through the rest of the episode when we cut to five days earlier as Finestra, CEO at American Century Records, is trying to cut a multimillion dollar deal with German investors. The company is desperately struggling to stay afloat but complications with a Led Zeppelin contract could sink the business.
Lovingly recreating the sights and sounds of the 70s, what really makes Vinyl so captivating is populating that world with interesting characters you genuinely care about. Not an easy feat to accomplish in one episode. Cannavale gives an incredible lead performance. There's real depth and nuance to his portrayal of Finestra as a man who has lost his way in a world of excess. Flashbacks to the early days further flesh out the character as he claws his way up the music industry. Juno Temple also stands out, among the cast of colourful characters behind the scenes at the record label, as a young, hungry Assistant A&R desperate to sign the next big thing.
With a string of high profile music documentaries and concert films to his name (including The Last Waltz, Shine a Light and No Direction Home) Scorsese knows the music world. Mixing in real bands and events gives the story an air of authenticity (Led Zep manager Peter Grant's infamous rant at bootleg vendors from The Song Remains the Same can be heard in the background of one scene as Finestra meets the band). It's an exaggeration of the truth but these touches ground Vinyl in reality. And of course the soundtrack is insanely good.
Stylish and beautifully made. Vinyl is Mad Men's druggy rock'n'roll cousin. If the rest of the series keeps up this level of quality we could well be looking at a new TV classic.
Vinyl is available exclusively on Sky Atlantic from Monday 15 February.