In Review

Vinyl: new music drama a 'rock 'n' roll Game of Thrones'

Humour, drama and impeccable soundtrack make Scorsese-Jagger series a treat for music fans

HBO's new period music-industry drama Vinyl gets its premiere this weekend and critics say viewers and music lovers are in for a treat.

The ten-part series has been created by some huge names: writer-director Martin Scorsese and rock legend Sir Mick Jagger, along with Boardwalk Empire writer Terence Winter, Rolling Stone journalist Richard Cohen, and Breaking Bad writer George Mastras. It stars Boardwalk Empire's Bobby Cannavale as record executive Richie Finestra, along with Olivia Wilde, Ray Romano and Juno Temple.

Vinyl unfolds in the gritty world of early 1970s New York, as the music of David Bowie and the Rolling Stones collides with glam rock, punk, disco and hip-hop. Richie Finestra's record company, American Century, has a slate of tired acts and he's about to cash out of the business until a coke-fuelled epiphany gives him a new mission.

Critics who have seen the opening episodes are excited.

The two-hour premiere, beautifully directed by Scorsese, is "a lush deep-dive into the music industry, fuelled by Cannavale's off-the-charts brilliance as Richie", says Tim Goodman in the Hollywood Reporter. This is enormously rich material to wade into, and you can "see the money on the screen", which suggests HBO is planning "a kind of rock 'n' roll Game of Thrones – big enough to embrace great swaths of history, story and movement".

Who knows if the show will be a hit for HBO, he adds, "but creatively it's a thing of real beauty."

Tony Sokol at Den of Geek says the first episode is essentially a full-length Scorsese film. It is even structured like many of them, with great music and artistry in recreating New York of the era and scenes that look like they "could have been found on the cutting room floor after Taxi Driver".

"Vinyl is exciting and fun," adds Sokol. It blends the humour with the drama, adds nuanced acting, and it's got a good beat – "you just might dance to it".

The feature-length opener is "a treat", if only because it's fundamentally a Scorsese property, says Jacob Stolworthy on Digital Spy. "An impeccable soundtrack - check; the occasional burst of violence - check; lots of cocaine-snorting - all the checks."

But it's not perfect, he notes. Cannavale is clearly in awe over his transition from supporting player to leading man but when his corporate side melts away and we see him as a wide-eyed adulator of music, he "runs away with those moments".

Essentially, this is "a music show made by music lovers for music listeners", concludes Stolworthy. And as a celebration of perhaps one of the most pioneering scenes in music history, "Vinyl becomes one record you want to hear in its entirety".

Vinyl will broadcast simultaneously on Sky Atlantic and HBO with a two-hour premiere at 2am on 15 February in the UK, repeated at 9pm later that day.

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