Vinyl: Yesterday Once More

For anyone with an addict as a loved one, the sight of Richie Finestra sobbing in his wife’s arms is a familiar experience.  They reach rock bottom and you’re being dragged down with them.  After episode two, I’m wondering if Vinyl’s main addict/character will drag the show down.

‘Yesterday Once More’ begins with Richie miming along to Enter the Dragon and having another drug-induced epiphany.  Then we’re with Zak, Skip, and Scott as they try to entertain the Germans as they wait for Richie.  When he finally shows up, he’s still high (who knew an eight ball could last that long?) and breaks off the Polygram deal.  We knew all of this would happen, though.  Richie’s speech has been the cornerstone of Vinyl’s marketing campaign for months and it was a let down when it wasn’t in the first episode.  But watching the fallout was fun.  

One of the things so many shows and films get wrong about addiction is what it’s like to talk to a person when you’re sober and they’re high.  The scene with Richie and his partners in the small office with the entire company looking on showed the frustration of trying to reason with someone under the influence. Rational thoughts are dismissed. You are ridiculed for not adhering to their grand ideas. Violence is possible. The scene provided humor, but it also provided a glimpse to the beginning of a disaster – like we we’re witnessing the moment when the designers of the Titanic suggested reducing the number of lifeboats.

Terence Winter has a strange talent, though, for creating supporting characters and subplots more interesting than the mains. I would much rather spend the next two episodes with the American Century A&R department than with Richie and Devon Finestra. Julian’s been in the business for twenty years; that pre-dates rock and roll so what has his career seen?  How did a square like Clark get a job in A&R?  And, yes, Juno Temple’s Jamie Vine is the rock and roll Peggy Olsen, but her character is already ten times more interesting than Richie. She’s exactly the kind of woman going into the 70s workplace – she knows what she’s good at and is doing everything she can to get ahead. Luckily she she only has to give Richie some blow and not a blowjob to get her shot repping The Nasty Bits.

Zak’s is another plotline I’m looking forward to this season. Ray Romano, oddly enough, has a better screen presence than Bobby Cannavale and brings the pathos the show is missing from the other characters. His character leads a double-life: at work he’s the publicity maestro who gets to be a part of rock life because he’s the man who gets you on the radio, while at home he’s henpecked and seen more as a wallet than a father and husband. The scene with him in the garage was easily the best of the episode as the audience feels the pressure Richie has now placed him under both physically with his broken nose and financially by ruining the Polygram sale.  The only part of the scene that didn’t play well to me was why Zak changes his mind.  Is he staying alive so he doesn’t ruin his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah?  Is he buying into Richie’s drug-fueled vision?  Or is he like so many others who contemplate suicide: too scared to go through with it?

I may be an amatuer at reviewing episodic tv, but even I know that I can’t end this without mentioning Devon’s plotline.  Devon, Devon, Devon.  Olivia Wilde is doing what she can with the character, which is the best thing I can about her right now.  Otherwise, nothing about the character makes sense.  In this week’s episode we see how Devon and Richie first met.  He was dating Ingrid, she was a minor player in Warhol’s Factory, and it was love at first fuck.  But there’s something unbelievable about their pairing.  And what are we supposed to understand about Devon’s current mental state?  Her Greek chorus, Karen Carpenter, is an unsubtle signal that she’s nostalgic for the romance of her early relationship with her husband, but even in the flashbacks all we see is Devon with Richie.  Who was she back then without him?  We need to see that before she begins her voyage of self-discovery.  

I’ll keep watching since no show really begins knowing itself until the middle of its first season.  For now, I’ve decided to write a separate post about the music-side of the show.  There’s a lot to talk about and since the show plays a lot of what’s in my Spotify account, I’ve got a lot of feelings about how it’s all used.

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