Thursday, June 23, 2016

Reboot Booted

HBO has canceled Vinyl, after renewing it originally.  Why?  The simple answer is it flopped--viewership was low, the critics didn't like it, and the show was expensive.  There was a plan to rethink it for season two, but the channel decided it was better to quit while they're behind.  It's doubtful they would have given up, though, if HBO hadn't just named a new president--a new broom sweeps clean.

I don't think Vinyl would have been able to reverse its ratings.  Still, a sad thing.  As badly as they screwed things up, the show had potential.  What did they do wrong?  Let me count the ways:

1.  Showrunner Terence Winter.  I suppose he can write well, and maybe he's got ties with producer Martin Scorsese, but the last show he created, Boardwalk Empire, was a mess.  It may have lasted several years, but it never found its footing.  (HBO likes Winter and David Milch, though they often crap out.  Meanwhile, they turn down shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad.  It's easy to be right after the fact, but has HBO been betting on the wrong horses?)

2.  The time period.  Doing a show about popular music of any era limits your audience, but 1973 was a bad choice.  The 60s, yeah, even if they're overdone.  The later 70s, once punk (and disco) changed things, might also work.  But this transitional period, even if there's a wide mix of styles at the time, falls between two stools.

3.  The darkness.  Protagonists need problems, but there's also got to be some fun.  Here's a guy who's running a record company, which sounds like a dream come true, but all we see is him failing and flailing.  His marriage is falling apart, his business is going under, he's got a drug problem, he can't do anything right.  Just a little lightness, maybe even the occasional clear success, would have helped.

4.  The murder.  This was the biggest plot mistake.  The pilot had the lead character involved in the killing of a man, and it was there the whole season, hanging over everything, crushing the fun out of the show.  Perhaps they thought they needed something weighty for the drama, but how many murders were there on Mad Men?  This is about the music business in the 70s--there's enough going on (including certain criminal activity) to keep us intrigued if done well.

5.  A better arc.  There can be a lot of things going on in a serial, but there should be clear goals that the characters are aiming for.  It sometimes seemed every episode the show would go in a new direction, meaning there was little cumulative power.

6.  Secondary characters.  A few seemed to be working out--especially Ray Romano and June Temple's characters--but most weren't well-defined, or didn't have enough to do.  Perhaps they would have blossomed if the show had another season.

7.  Is it real or is it Memorex?  The show had an unhealthy mix of real people of the era (played by actors, of course) and made up characters, include "famous" ones who exist in the reality of the series.  Maybe they hoped for some of the excitement of the era by using actual names, but it led to a weird and sometimes uncomfortable mix.

Still, I'm sorry to see it go. The idea was good, it had a good cast and a good look, and I certainly would have given the reboot a chance.  A missed opportunity.


Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

A new broom sweeps clean. Nice.

3:06 AM, June 23, 2016  
Blogger New England Guy said...

And the hairstyles were annoying.

I lived through that [style] hell in real time -no need to experience it again on a pay channel

4:28 AM, June 23, 2016  

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