In case you missed the news, HBO went ahead and gave Vinyl a second season, well before the dust had even settled after the pilot episode. It’s a highly illogical move on the surface when you consider that the first installment didn’t even crack a million viewers, which would be a huge failure for most cable dramas. I can only suspect that either the network is playing the long game, trying to get viewers to catch the buzz about the series (see: this week’s edition of Rolling Stone with its glowing review and puff piece about Bobby Cannavale) and catch up with the show on HBONow. Or, viewers will binge watch the episodes during the off season and get all keyed up for the next run of episodes.
More than likely, it’s worth it to the network to keep names like Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese in their corner for future projects or exclusives. Does that mean HBO executives are kicking themselves for not taking more of a chance on an underperformer like Looking, considering the buzz that that show’s co-creator Andrew Haigh has been picking up for his film 45 Years? Maybe—but an understated series about gay men in San Francisco struggling to find love and acceptance just isn’t the same as a brash blast from the past about the power of rock ‘n’ roll, man. And when the show is as over-the-top as Vinyl has been already, that’s an even more surefire way to get people’s attention. With that in mind, let’s look back at the most recent episode, “Yesterday Once More,” and the insane moments they packed into one slim hour.
So, you survived the collapse of the Mercer Arts Center and were resurrected as a true fan of rock music. The question is: what do you do next? If you’re Richie Finestra, you apparently snort some more blow and make a fool out of yourself in a shady theater, acting along with a Bruce Lee movie like it’s a midnight screening of Rocky Horror. I’m slowly accepting the fact that this show is completely removed from reality, but that sure doesn’t make a dumb scene like that one any easier to swallow.
As part of the first episode, these stylized moments featuring actors pretending to perform rock and R&B classics were a fairly interesting diversion as they situated us in the world of Vinyl and the music industry therein. Now, they’re just distracting as all get out—particularly when you plop a Karen Carpenter lookalike in the car with Devon Finestra and let her dramatically act out a version of "Yesterday Once More." It’s padding out an already overstuffed show.
In the midst of the flashbacks concerning Richie and Devon’s first hookup and early days, they plopped in the character of a very German photographer with a very artsy outlook on life. Worse, the actor playing the character treats his line readings like he’s the villain in a World War II drama. So when a simple bit of dialogue about Richie and Devon moving out of New York City is delivered ("You will have rolling hills and ponds…so the child of yours may…fish?"), it comes out caked in unintentional hilarity.
His "hallelujah" moment turns into a pale imitation of Alec Baldwin scaring the sales team at Premier Properties, right down to firing everyone, but giving them two weeks to keep their jobs by finding the next big act. Absolutely lazy.
Poor Ray Romano is not only saddled with a terrifying hairpiece, but in a pivotal scene where he contemplates suicide, he has to play the whole thing out in a child-like pair of PJs. Considering his character just had his nose smashed in by Richie earlier in the episode and is being browbeaten by his wife, would it kill you to give him a little dignity in the costume department?
The world will never tire of trying to recreate the playground for the art scene of late ‘60s New York, nor will it ever feel like anything more than a weird facsimile of the real thing. Points for a cheeky performance by John Cameron Mitchell as Warhol; deduction for virtually everything else (naked giggling girls throwing glitter on each other, shitty fake Velvet Underground performance, dazzled hangers on, etc.).
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor toPaste. You can find more of his writing here;.