I’ve started to formulate a theory that HBO demands that every non-starring actor that gets a role in one of their series is legally bound to appear in at least one other show on the network. I have zero real proof to back this up, other than noticing that these familiar faces seem to keep popping up. In Vinyl alone, you’ll find Spiros Vondopoulos (Paul Ben-Victor) and Maurice Levy (Michael Kostroff) from The Wire, Richie Aprile (David Proval) from the second season of The Sopranos, the eldest son of Bill and Barb from Big Love (Douglas Smith), and others I’m surely forgetting. What better way to pad out your shows with talent, than to contractually obligate your actors to do it. That is certainly helping a show like Vinyl, as these folks provide a little bit of grounding for the scenery chewing that is going on around them from week to week—like Hal’s Satanic freak out in the American Century offices after being fired, or James Jagger’s constant attempts to recreate Gary Oldman’s performance from Sid & Nancy. Those fine character actors mentioned above may be wasting their time with this overwrought drama, but at least they’re getting paid while they do it.
Is there anyone in the real world that is convinced that that sub-Stooges knockoff that was written for Vinyl’s made-up band is actually good? Just as the pseudo-punk band hits rock bottom, they grab an old bluesy love song from their manager and turn it into dogshit replete with super naughty curse words and music that tries woefully to mash together three different tunes from Fun House into one. For a third of the money the producers likely spent to license “Here Comes The Sun” for the opening scene, they could have hired John Dwyer or Ty Segall to help whip them together an actually great tune.
Let’s cut it out with the slow motion already. Leave that to your boss Scorsese, or one of his many directorial acolytes and find another way to add a little dramatic heft to scenes of people walking into a room.
Just when you think they’ve scraped the bottom of the knockoff barrel with their David Bowie from two weeks ago, along comes their Lennon. And like the encounter with the ersatz Thin White Duke, the appearance of a faux Beatle is completely unnecessary to the story at large. It’s just an excuse to have some poor actor don a long wig, some round glasses, and try to talk in a reedy Liverpudlian accent. All of this so the regular posters to the Steve Hoffman forum can roll their eyes in ecstasy at the thought of John Lennon being at Max’s Kansas City to see Bob Marley & The Wailers.
I’m not sure what Clark, the young, bumbling former A&R rep, meant by this statement. Is he admitting the impossible: that someone working in the music industry in New York has had zero exposure to funk and soul music before getting relegated to the mailroom? Or, was this simply to set up that epiphanic moment at the end of the episode where he goes to an underground dance party and… sees the future, I guess? Why do I feel like this is going to be like Pete Campbell’s embrace of the African-American market in Mad Men—only worse?
By jeezum crow… we get it already. Richie likes cocaine. Do we have to keep doing the big quick zoom in to Bobby Cannavale’s face after he takes a bump to watch him quiver like he just ejaculated into his bellbottoms?
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can find more of his writing here.