When it was announced a couple of years back that Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger were working on an HBO pilot about a record executive in the 1970s, it was hard to believe that something like this hadn't already existed. Well, Vinyl, their epic drama (created alongside Boardwalk Empire's Terence Winter and non-fiction writer Rich Cohen) has finally arrived, and it's messy, dark, and like so much of what HBO promises these days, pretty heavy on the sex and drugs.
Vinyl stars Bobby Cannavale as Richie Finestra, founder of American Century, a record label that's on its last days. While we don't know exactly what went wrong from the two hour-long premiere, we do know that Richie and his buddies, including his right hand man Zak Yankovich, played by Ray Romano, have probably grown too accustomed to their hedonistic lifestyles. Richie's anxiety about his legacy, past, and the state of rock 'n' roll in the early 70s starts to haunt him, and the series looks like it's going to delve into a world of Led Zeppelin, Andy Warhol, and the groups of people—particularly black artists—who were exploited during these years.
In honor of the premiere, Complex Pop took a look at the episode to count all the times the major characters participate in troubling behavior. (Basically, all of the times Richie and his buddies do drugs and drink alcohol.)
00:26 - In the first few seconds of the pilot we see Richie totally distressed. He's sitting in his car sweating and breathing heavily, and it looks like he could use a Xanax or five. Instead, we see him take a swig of something strong. Self medicating does wonders!
02:10 - After buying some coke from his car in a New York alley—$280 worth of it—Richie rubs a bit of it on his gums. He immediately relaxes, and we get the sense that he's, you know, pretty addicted.
02:17 - It's all the more evident when his antics a few seconds earlier weren't enough. Richie rubs a bit more under his gums.
03:14 - And it's still not enough. Richie, desperate at this point, tears off his rear-view mirror (spoiler: this will not be his only tantrum!) and uses a business card, which reveals the name of a homicide detective, to do a line. Well, a few.
10:55 - Richie provides a voiceover where he introduces Romano’s Zak Yankovich. We hear Richie explain that Zak one upped the idea of a "100 dollar handshake" by buying people off with "$5,000 and a gram of Bolivian dancing dust." The scene cuts to Zak paying off a guy to play records and then the two of them do a couple of lines off said records. Classy guys.
16:56 - Celebrating their almost closed deal with a German record label, Richie's boys celebrate by doing some coke on their plane ride home to New York. Richie, however refuses to, for some goddamn reason. Maybe, like us, he's tired?
23:48 - While no one actually does drugs here, this scene is important to point out because we’ve just witnessed Jamie Vine (Juno Temple), an assistant at American Century, score a shit ton of drugs that I’m sure is used to keep the clients at bay. She hides them all in a drawer in her cubicle. When a young, anxious, and sleazy executive, Clark Morelle (Jack Quaid), approaches Jamie nervously saying that he needs an ounce of weed for a client, she ends up giving him just that. And benzos. And "goofballs"—the slang term for barbiturates, which a quick Google search informed me of.
25:05 - Just having landed from his trip to Germany, Richie gets in his car and takes a couple of pills, probably to keep him awake. Who really knows at this point?
35:46 - In a flashback we see Richie, who is working as a bartender, come across Lester Grimes (Ato Essandoh), a talented blues singer. Richie immediately senses his talent and celebrates his discovery (and future exploitation) by taking a shot of (probably) whiskey.
59:05 - Andrew Dice Clay plays Frank "Buck" Rogers, a cocaine-addicted owner of a couple of radio stations who is more of a cartoon than an actual person. Richie meets him at a club and after Rogers lectures Richie about Donny Osmond not showing up at a dinner he was hosting, Rogers loses his shit, which culminates in him and his posse doing some coke. Not just any coke, but "Rock of Gibraltar" he so helpfully informs us.
1:02:28 - Kip Stevens (who also happens to be Jagger's son James), the grungy leading man of the Nasty Bits, the crappy punk band Jamie is trying to recruit to impress the execs at American Century, shoots up some heroin. Finally, something other than cocaine!
01:41:30 - The show then takes up back to where it started and we find out why Richie was in the predicament he was in in the first few minutes of the show. I don't feel the need to spoil, but let's just say his reason for taking a giant swig from this giant bottle makes sense.
01:44:20 - Devon (Olivia Wilde), Richie’s wife, catches him acting erratically in their home. After their son walks in on him dancing and playing guitar, Devon gives him crap for his behavior and forces him to drink more booze. If he cares more about boozing and doing drugs than his family, he should continue to drink. Her logic. Not mine.
01:44:57 - Devon then takes the bottle from him and takes her own giant swig. Wilde doesn't have much to do in this pilot (smh), but her final moment, where she's seemingly going to indulge, ends up being an incredible fake out. She spits the booze in Richie's face.
It's hard to say what Vinyl will become in the next few episodes, but the drugs and alcohol might be the main character, particularly in the way they define this crazy, fast-paced, and dangerous world that Richie and his group inhabit. Also, it's Martin Scorsese. If Wolf of Wall Street taught us anything, the guy loves anything coke-related.