“Vinyl” continues to captivate.

This HBO series is far more than sex, drugs and rock and roll.



Brooks Ginnan, Writer

Love it or hate it, HBO has been responsible for some of the most popular TV programming in recent memory. Shows like “Game of Thrones,” “Girls” and “True Detective” remain powerful in their ability to spark conversation. Yet one of the network’s newest ventures has a more modest reception — “Vinyl.”

A Record Executive

The creation of Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese, “Vinyl” is set in New York City, 1973 and focuses on record label American Century and its executive Richie Finestra – played by Bobby Cannavale. From the riveting opening shot up through the newest — and ninth — episode, Vinyl has found Richie in about as much conflict as one could possibly be. Instead of basking in lux hedonism like many of his colleagues, Richie is plagued by substance abuse, infidelity, bankruptcy and murder — every episode a new downward spiral.

While everything falls down around the show’s protagonist, the music scene of the ‘70s experiences a consistent state of monumental development. The show has featured portrayals of The Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Bob Marley, Alice Cooper and the New York Dolls, plus a recurring Andy Warhol for good measure. These elements, although used more for setting and context than actual plot development, tie into the notion of a record label failing to catch up to the times. It makes an interesting narrative for the 21st century in which the traditional record label has grown considerably devalued, but therein lies a form of novelty affection — perhaps not far off from the resurgence of the vinyl record itself.

Not for Mindless Consumption

What keeps viewers much less attached to “Vinyl” than shows like “Game of Thrones?” Quite simply, the show is not for mindless consumption. The characters, for one thing, are buried in extravagant layers of emotion and secret lives, making them mostly unlikeable. No one has their life together, and that is a tough thing to swallow, perhaps because it is closer to the truth than one may desire for their average Sunday night programming — the final moments before life kicks back in Monday morning.

At the end of the day, “Vinyl” might not get great ratings. It might not win big accolades. It might not have many seasons. Yet, the performances given from actors like Cannavale, Ray Romano and Olivia Wilde are stunning. The lingering shots of anger and grief are phenomenally poignant. In fact, some of the actors’ best moments are found in silent, existential expression. The amount of intimacy portrayed in these scenes is heartbreaking and beautiful, and that is what good television, good storytelling and good art should be about.


The season finale of “Vinyl,” “Alibi” will air this Sunday. Perhaps it will tie up the loose ends scattered throughout season one, but if not, it might be for the better.

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