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Bobby Cannavale, Olivia Wilde, Ray Romano, Juno Temple
Writing Credits:

A New York music executive in the 1970s hustles to make a career out of the city's diverse music scene.

Not Rated

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 660 min.
Price: $59.98
Release Date: 6/7/16

• Three Audio Commentaries
• “Making Vinyl: Recreating the 70s” Featurette
• “Inside the Episode” Featurettes


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Vinyl: The Complete First Season [Blu-Ray] (2016)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 31, 2016)

When Boardwalk Empire ended in 2014, creator Terence Winter didn’t rest on his laurels too long. By 2016, he returned with co-creators Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger and Rich Cohen to produce Vinyl, a series about the record business in the early 1970s.

The Blu-ray includes all of Season One’s 10 episodes across four discs. The plot synopses come straight from the Blu-ray menus.

Pilot: “In 1973 NYC, record exec Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) battles past and current demons as he and his partners are on the verge of selling their struggling label.”

On the surface, Vinyl should be right up my alley, as its focus on the music industry sounds fascinating. And maybe down the road, the series will come to life and fulfill its potential.

In the “Pilot”, however, we get a pretty lackluster launch to Vinyl. The show seems more concerned with the drugs and bacchanalia of the era than the actual music, and that’s a drawback. Sure, the period put the “sex and drugs” in rock ‘n’ roll, but we need more than that, and the episode’s attempts to develop other areas fall flat. Well, the pilot for Boardwalk Empire seemed mediocre too, so I won’t judge Vinyl on one program.

Yesterday Once More: “Richie delivers a bombshell that shocks American Century’s would-be buyers – and blindsides his record label partners Zak (Ray Romano) and Skip (JC MacKenzie).”

I get it – I get that Vinyl wants to make the record industry look like organized crime. And I get that the seedy side of the real music business certainly runs afoul of legal areas.

That said, so far Vinyl works too hard to dig into that aspect of things. This makes it feel less like a story set in the music biz and more just another twist on the same old gangster stuff without a lot of originality.

Some stylistic choices don’t help. The “interstitials” with bad impressions of music notables like Jerry Lee Lewis and Bobby Blue Bland become an active distraction as well. To date, these factors make Vinyl a spotty combination of gritty realism and glossy fantasy. Well, we still have eight shows to go!

Whispered Secrets: “Richie trims the American Century roster; Devon (Olivia Wilde) tries her hand at fundraising in the suburbs.”

On the surface, “Secrets” moves along the narrative, but I feel like it doesn't really go anywhere. We get some of the same topics and themes as the first two shows and not much to make the series more endearing. I’m not giving up hope on Vinyl yet, but I admit Season One’s first one-third disappoints.

The Racket: “Richie charms a funk superstar; Skip looks to unload a shipment of Donny Osmond LPs.”

In the “Pilot”, Richie became involved in a crime that casts a shadow over the rest of the season. Perhaps this will pay dividends down the road, but so far, it seems like a mistake, as it gave the series much more of a GoodFellas vibe than it needs.

This means another spotty episode from “Racket”. I think the “Pilot” crime adds nothing to the season – to date, at least – and creates unnecessary distractions. At least the development of the Richie/Lester (Ato Essandoh) relationship shows promise; it’s the only really interesting thread I’ve seen so far.

He In Racist Fire: “Devon plays the vixen at dinner with Richie, Hannibal (Daniel J. Watts) and Cece (Susan Heyward); Kip (James Jagger) faces a band dilemma.”

I don’t want to get my hopes up, but “Fire” boasts actual glimmers of intrigue. This is mainly because it spends more time with the music side of the series and less with the seedy melodrama. It’s still not a great show, but at least it points in the right direction.

Cyclone: “Richie falls in a deeper well of depravity as Devon seeks refuge with old friends at the Chelsea Hotel.”

Arguably the series’ greatest weakness comes from its lead. I’ve liked Cannavale in supporting parts, where his energy makes him memorable, but as the main character, he overwhelms.

Granted, some of that suits the character, as his drug and demon-fueled rampages lend themselves to Cannavale’s strengths. However, Cannavale plays most of his scenes with the same manic aggression. Add to that the world’s worst David Bowie impersonator and “Cyclone” disappoints.

The King and I: “On a hunch, Richie and Zak travel to Las Vegas in hopes of persuading Elvis Presley to switch labels.”

“King” leaves the series in something of a holding pattern. It offers superficial movement in terms of some narrative areas – especially the Rickie/Zak relationship – but it doesn’t go as far as I’d like. The Elvis subplot feels gratuitous as well and comes across like nothing more than an excuse to feature an Elvis impersonator.

EAB: “A desperate Richie approaches Galasso (Armen Garro) about a loan; Kip gets a crash course in the blues from Lester.”

Once again, Vinyl gives us another mediocre show. A few plot areas develop, but they remain less than enchanting – and too many of them seem predictable. While I want Season One to motivate toward a big finale, it seems stuck in neutral.

By the way, the series’ tendency to put characters at the birth of so many new musical movements gets old. Punk, disco – you name it, and Vinyl personalities happen to glimpse their roots. This feels like a form of “name-dropping” and it becomes silly.

Rock and Roll Queen: “Richie faces a dilemma as the heat is turned up in the Buck Rogers murder case.”

With little time left in Season One, Vinyl becomes sappy where it needs to turn lively. The series’ lack of interesting characters really bites it in the behind, as my general disinterest in Richie and the others means I don’t care where the stories go. We’ll see if anything intriguing pops up in the season finale.

Alibi: “Zak maps out a dangerous plan to bring down Richie; Kip’s excesses threaten an important Nasty Bits gig.”

Vinyl’s first year concludes with another spotty show. I just never bought into the series’ heavy gangster theme, and that component dominates here. Add other moments of contrived drama and the season finishes without anything much of a bang.

Which remains a disappointment, though obviously not a surprise. Vinyl comes with enough promise that I’ll give Season Two a shot, but Season One suffers from so many clichés that it never makes a name for itself. The characters leave me cold and mean that Season One finishes as a missed opportunity.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus C-

Vinyl appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The Blu-rays replicated the source material.

Given the nature of the series, sharpness could be a bit erratic, as the shows wanted to remind us of 1970s works. Sharpness was generally fine, though, as the episodes offered largely solid delineation. I saw no shimmering or jaggies, and edge haloes were absent. No print flaws occurred, but the show opted for a grainy feel to attempt era verisimilitude.

Despite all these attempts at a period impression, Vinyl went with a teal and orange palette that smelled 21st century. I didn’t care for these visual choices, but the hues came across as intended. Blacks were dense and full, and shadows showed reasonable clarity. Overall, the shows looked fine.

As for the series’ DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio, the mixes focused heavily on music. That made sense, and the shows used songs to fill all the channels in an active manner.

Otherwise, the episodes went with general ambience most of the time. A few sequences – like a building collapse – added some zing, but those remained in the minority. The shows concentrated on music, and that made sense.

Audio quality was positive. Music could be rough because the episodes often went down that attempted verisimilitude path again and used vinyl sources; that meant roughness, pops and clicks at times. Still, the music usually worked well enough.

Effects played a minor role, but they appeared accurate and concise. Speech seemed warm and natural, without edginess. Nothing exciting happened with the audio, but I thought the tracks suited the shows.

Audio commentaries accompany three episodes:

“Yesterday Once More”: creator/executive producer/writer Terence Winter, executive producer/director Allen Coulter and actors Bobby Cannavale and Olivia Wilde;

“Whispered Secrets”: Winter, director Mark Romanek and actors Max Casella, Juno Temple and Jack Quaid;

“EAB”: Winter, Cannavale, Wilde, and music supervisors Randall Poster and Meghan Currier.

In these, we learn about story/characters, sets, locations and production design, costumes and period details, music, attempts at accuracy, cast and performances, and related areas. The commentaries tend to be pretty mediocre. They come with a reasonable collection of production notes but also suffer from dead air and too much praise. The tracks seem fairly average overall.

Note that the track for “Secrets” works best of the bunch. While it comes with the flaws mentioned above, it minimizes them and turns into a reasonably efficient chat. The other two fare much less well, but “Secrets” gives us a reasonably informative piece.

Making Vinyl: Recreating the 70s runs 18 minutes, 32 seconds. The show includes info from Winter, Cannavale, Wilde, Temple, Poster, Casella, executive producers Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger, hip hop consultant Stretch Armstrong, costume designer John A. Dunn, makeup department head Nicki Ledermann, hair department head Michelle Johnson, production designer Bill Groom, set decorator Ellen Christiansen, set decorator buyer Roberta Holinko, art director Adam Scher, visual effects supervisor Lesley Robson-Foster, and actors Ato Essandoh, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, and James Jagger.

We get info about the series’ origins and development, musical/historical elements, cast and performances, costumes, hair and makeup. “Making” offers a serviceable overview of various production areas, with an emphasis on period details. I’d like more depth, but we still find a decent array of facts.

In addition, we find Inside the Episode featurettes for each program except “Whispered Secrets”. These fill a total of 33 minutes, 39 seconds and include notes from Winter. These look at story/character areas as well as period details/accuracy. The “Inside” shows tend to be loose and superficial.

Despite an excellent pedigree and a compelling topic, Vinyl never quite connects. While the series occasionally flits to life, it fails to turn into anything especially involving or intriguing. The Blu-ray presents good picture and audio as well as some minor supplements. Perhaps Season Two will kick Vinyl into higher gear, but its first year disappoints.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 13
2 3:
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