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Vinyl: Season 1, Episode 4 - "The Racket"

Leyla Hamedi

This episode's story isn't that interesting, but at least there's a fabulous funk man in sequins and velvet.


Airtime: Sundays, 9pm
Cast: Bobby Cannavale, Olivia Wilde, Ato Essandoh
Subtitle: Season 1, Episode 4 - "The Racket"
Network: HBO
Air date: 2016-03-06

In case you've forgotten, Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) is an accessory to the murder of radio legend Buck Rogers (Andrew Dice Clay), and it haunts him. It's supposed to haunt us, too -- that fatal clump of a crystal vase on a human head -- but the quick flashbacks and scene cuts that made Guy Ritchie seem so stylishly edgy, just become repetitive in a medium that's supposed to be spread out over weeks.

Finestra can't make Rogers' funeral (which takes place in a pretty groovy disco stained-glass synagogue by the way) because his off-the-wagon coke habit has a way of interfering with his life. His sales and publicity and A&R head, basically all the men that are one head below him on the American Century totem pole, discuss how fucked their lives are but really, as one guy points out, how much really? In one of those deadpan humorous but realistic bits the show does quite well, that question’s put to the test. Honestly, how will these men get women and backwash fame without being part of a booming record company?

Yet, the record company isn't so booming. Sales guy Skip (J.C. MacKenzie) has to deal with the backlog of Donny Osmond records, except even kids today know that Donny is so not cool. Cue Skip at the end of the episode sitting with all that -- wait for it -- vinyl. Meanwhile, Richie is trying to keep his version of Bootsy Collins with a touch of Prince (crushed purple velvet coat, I see you) happy. Hannibal (Daniel J. Watts) is a funk legend, and his dancers and back-up singers put on a show to rival Boney M. This performance, sadly, is really the only scene in the episode with any genuine feeling to it.

It may be preachy, but Vinyl knows how to set up and showcase whatever musical interlude it happens to be featuring this week. Except a big bad rival record exec is trying to woo Hannibal. When Richie finds out he orders his secretary to blow him if necessary to keep him locked in at American Century. This moment leads to another one of those "bits", in which the other secretary asks if she should to tell the one in question to blow Hannibal or the rival exec.

In personal business, Richie and Devon Finestra (Olivia Wilde) see a therapist and beat the crap out of household objects to let out that stress. In what seemed like a totally predictable finding-a-raison-d'être move, Devon photographed the wreckage of Richie's birthday bender and finally got the pictures back.

Surprisingly, instead of continuing on the path of photography (the last chance of creative employment avenues), she takes the photos to a divorce lawyer. However, no one is convinced she will go through with it just yet. Lester Grimes (Ato Essandoh), he of the ruined career and voice, is back. He sets fire to Richie's office in a diva move to rival any female artist unfairly known for drama (cue: Janis Joplin and "Crybaby"), but then tops himself by announcing that he's the Nasty Bits' manager right before they sign with the label. Oh, what hi-jinks will follow! Finally, Jamie (Juno Temple) and Kip (James Jagger) make out because duh, women and men in music can't have professional relationships.

If all that's not enough drama, we finally meet Richie's dad, Sal (David Proval), the jazz band player whose band was the label's namesake. Father issues are hinted at, and Richie requests an alibi for the night of Rogers' death. Then we get another, "pay attention!" tap on the head as we end the episode with "Strychnine" by The Sonics, the band punk bands cite as an influence in order to look smart.

If this episode teaches us anything it’s less story, more music, Marty! You can't win; we're always going to cry, cry, cry baby.


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