Wow! HBO fires Winter in Spring for Vinyl
Everyone who reads this blog has to know what a fan I am of HBO's series Vinyl, I have been virtually the ONLY recapper defending the show whole cloth and against all critics since the Pilot.
I have to admit, despite this, I was not 100% shocked that the powers that be at HBO released Terence Winter (Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire) as Vinyl's showrunner for the show's sophomore season. My gut tells me, from the interactions that I have had (with other critics and the people who read this blog) the show is not very popular.
If you want to read more about this, HERE is what AV Club had to say.
Sure, I agree it has some sub-plots that are entirely derivative of other shows, I agree it has not always been kind to its female characters or actresses, I agree it's main character Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) is almost entirely unlikeable. But, I think that many of these perceived ills are reflective of the truth of Record Industry in the 1970's. The record industry was exploitative of and horrible to women, to people of color, and to all of its artists (except for the ones with the power to fight back).
So currently, Finestra is racist, sexist, a bad husband, a terrible boss, and a murderer.
Sounds to me like good old Joe Corso is about to take a fall, Devon and Richie are going to reconcile, and the Jamie, Clark, and CeCe trio are getting promotions. The magical unicorns are coming.
The New, Improved, and Lovable Richie Finestra
This is why I am worried that this will mean the second season of the show will change the show's entire arc and find a way to make Richie lovable and embraceable. Richie is a stand-in for an industry that became a behemoth almost exclusively by appropriating Black music. Richie is a record executive at a time when women were not afforded equal rights in American businesses.
Great shows almost always percolate for a season (or even two) before people really start to appreciate what makes them great. This show had the "Balls" (In Richie language) to build a show around a character that is entirely unlikeable. It has the ongoing patience and courage to build up a cast of supporting characters that we are growing to love. Scorcese has worked his entire career to be able to entirely invert the entire traditional structure of writing for the screen, finally found the perfect opportunity in Vinyl, and now his ambition will be ultimately thwarted by the one network that is usually immune to the vagaries of popular pressure.
Okay, so they are going to create the "New and Improved" Richie. I get it, HBO wants more viewers for one of its tentpole series and wants Bobby Cannavale to become one of their recognizable and bankable stars. But there were other benefits to having Winter around, the show was thoughtful and respectful of musical history. The inclusion of what I have been calling the "ghosts" has almost every single time been a multiplier to important story points. The wonderful curation including music by forgotten or underappreciated artists from history (Otis Blackwell or Jimmy Castor for example) should be preserved.
I hope I am not forced to become nostalgic for the moments that made me so emotionally experience nostalgia during the first season. I want more wonderful bookending like starting an episode off with a song by Buddy Holly broadcast through a small pool-side radio followed with ending the show with the appearance of "ghostly" Buddy Holly (himself a victim of a tragic accident) as Richie's best friend dies in a tragic (if predictable) car accident.
I believe Winter is probably the one being concerned about that kind of storytelling.
At its best Vinyl has made an argument that the music industry had serious debts to pay. Richie's fall exposes the awful superstructure that sex, drugs, and rock and roll were really built on. A few weeks ago, someone posted a video called "The History of Rock and Roll" to Google+. Predictably, every band featured was all-white and all-male.
That, in a nutshell, is why Vinyl has been so worthwhile, and why this move does more than worry me. Most of us love Classic Rock, but we never really thought about how it came to us, Vinyl has been doing an amazing job at both paying homage to music's real history and its sordid rise from a hustle to an industry.
Where else have we ever really seen that story told before? Where will we ever see it again?
How do you feel about the firing of Terence Winter? What direction do you predict Season 2 of Vinyl will take? Let me know, leave a comment!