Is this real life? Is this just fan­tasy?

A new TV chan­nel means no es­cape from re­al­ity

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - TICKET STUBS -

Are you a fan of reali-tee TV? Then glad tid­ings for you un­apolo­getic an­thro­pol­o­gists and car-crash Kar­dashian watch­ers. A new sub­scrip­tion video-on-de­mand ser­vice (or SVOD, as no one will ever call it) launches in Ire­land this March, promis­ing just what the world needs – more trash TV.

Hayu from NBC Uni­ver­sal brings us “all-re­al­ity, all-day”, per­fect when for when you have the mother of all hang­overs and you can’t fo­cus on any­thing more chal­leng­ing than Mil­lie from Made in Chelsea’s hair.

Hayu has 3,000 episodes worth of re­al­ity shows to call on - in­clud­ing Keep­ing Up with the Kar­dashi­ans, The Real House­wives, RuPaul’s Drag Race – the show that brought the world the “Snatch Game”– The Mil­lion­aire Match­maker and Don’t Tell the Bride.

If you’ve never seen the lat­ter, here’s a run down: bride tells groom she wants a tra­di­tional cathe­dral wed­ding fol­lowed by Tus­can-style re­cep­tion and a muted colour pal­ette; groom ar­ranges mar­riage at a paint­balling park fol­lowed by hot dogs with no bun be­cause he blew all the bud­get on the his as­tro­naut-themed stag.

Re­al­ity TV was once her­alded as an ex­cit­ing, un­pre­dictable form of ob­ser­va­tional me­dia. Mainly though it’s be­come seen as the be­gin­ning of the end: it’s base, bar­baric and dis­turb­ing, which says as much about us its au­di­ence as it does about its sub­jects.

Big Brother was ac­cused of turn­ing us into creepy voyeurs; X Fac­tor made us all nasty lit­tle Si­mon Cow­ells, rev­el­ling in teenager’s tears. Other crit­ics lam­bast the fact that so much re­al­ity is scripted and how net­works ac­tively ma­nip­u­late their “stars” and view­ers to boost rat­ings (see

Jersey Shore’s Snooki get­ting sucker-punched).

With 500 more episodes promised each year, and at ¤4.99 a month, the mak­ers of Hayu say “it costs less than a lip­stick” and the sub­scrip­tion is no con­tract, un­less you count the one you’ve made with the devil. Katy Har­ring­ton

“No, Martin Scors­ese and Mick Jag­ger,” is a sen­tence that has never been said. “I’m afraid this is a ter­ri­ble, ter­ri­ble idea Martin Scors­ese and Mick Jag­ger, and so I’m not giv­ing you money for your tele­vi­sion pro­ject,” is an­other sen­tence that has never passed the lips of mor­tal man. I chal­lenge you to say ei­ther of th­ese sen­tences aloud. It can­not be done.

And this is why we have Vinyl (Sky At­lantic, Mon­day), Martin Scors­ese’s Mick-Jag­ger-pro­duced first foray into tele­vi­sion.

The two-hour pi­lot be­gins chirpily enough with a weep­ing grunt­ing middle-aged man snort­ing co­caine in a dark al­ley in the pri­vacy of his car. No, this is not a pro­gramme about ei­ther Ir­ish eco­nomic pol­icy circa 2006 or your last birth­day, but a pro­gramme about the mu­sic scenes of the 1960s and 1970s.

“At last,” says you. “Baby boomers are usu­ally so shy about talk­ing about the mu­sic of the 1960s and 1970s. It’s about time the dra­matic arts ad­dressed this gap. And, fur­ther­more, wouldn’t it be great to tell this story with less youth­ful ex­u­ber­ance and coun­ter­cul­ture, and more sweaty mid­dleaged men in cri­sis hav­ing board meet­ings and grunt­ing?”

You are in luck. Our pro­tag­o­nist is record ex­ec­u­tive Richie Fines­tra (Bobby Can­navale). He is the owner of a big, sul­lenly hand­some, rub­bery face which is framed below a sym­met­ri­cal floppy middle-part­ing and atop a broad wingtip col­lar.

De­spite look­ing like a de­pressed Spit­ting Im­age pup­pet ver­sion of Satur­day Night

Fever- era John Tra­volta, he has a beau­ti­ful wife (Olivia Wilde), a record la­bel, lots of money, a cor­rupted soul, shat­tered ideals and a past filled with be­trayal. For some rea­son, he is un­happy.

Luck­ily, Richie comes with a dis­em­bod­ied voice-over, like many other Scors­ese char­ac­ters and Gerry Adams in the 1980s. “So this is my story,” he tells us at the out­set, “clouded by lost brain cells, self-ag­gran­dis­e­ment, and maybe a lit­tle bit of bull­shit.”

He also likes to ex­press his in­ner tor­ment in Scors­eses que mo­ments of sud­den, cin­e­matic vi­o­lence: rip­ping his car mir­ror off its hinges to snort co­caine; smash­ing his price­less Bo Did­dley gui­tar in a hissy fit; par­tic­i­pat­ing in the blud­geon­ing to death of a vul­gar, trou­ble­some col­league.

The dawn of nos­tal­gia

Al­ready in the early 1970s, peo­ple like Richie were nos­tal­gic for the early 1960s, and when not drugged and break­ing stuff, the char­ac­ters are con­stantly ask­ing each other about when they first heard the mu­sic of that very slightly ear­lier age. Yes, the de­light­ful repet­i­tive cy­cle of nos­tal­gia beloved by God’s favoured gen­er­a­tion clearly be­gan at the chimes of mid­night on Jan­uary 1st, 1970.

Vinyl is the anti- Mad Men. Chrono­log­i­cally, it be­gins roughly where Mad Men fin­ished and it re­v­erses that show’s fo­cus. Whereas Mad

Men won­dered at the un­know­able in­te­rior worlds of char­ac­ters un­pre­dictably shaped by a churn­ing zeit­geist, Vinyl’s pro­tag­o­nist is te­diously know­able and the ex­ter­nal world help­fully shapes it­self in lov­ing mimicry of his in­ner life.

In­deed, when Richie be­gins to feel, at a New York Dolls con­cert, that the whole ed­i­fice of rock’n’roll is col­laps­ing in or­der for some­thing new to arise from the ashes, the build­ing lit­er­ally col­lapses (this is sup­pos­edly the Mercier Arts Cen­tre which fell down in 1973, al­beit with no one in the build­ing). Here is an­other sen­tence no one has ever said: “Martin Scors­ese and Mick Jag­ger, is that not a lit­tle too on the nose?”

Richie’s un­hap­pi­ness should not be mis­taken for depth. We come into his story at the point when his youth­ful en­thu­si­asm has flat­tened into bor­ing old cyn­i­cism. Who cares what hap­pens to him? Mean­while, the fic­tion­alised mu­si­cians – Led Zep­pelin, the New York Dolls – are ephemer­ally sketched cover bands, the fe­male char­ac­ters are all wives, groupies and male fan­tasies of fe­male em­pow­er­ment (the go-get­ting young A&R woman sleeps with the singer she wants to sign), and all the other male ex­ecs are ve­nal ids com­pet­ing for space in a fluc­tu­at­ing hi­er­ar­chy and, pre­sum­ably, for the bet­ter wigs.

“No, Martin Scors­ese and Mick Jag­ger,” I say, hit­ting them on the snout with a news­pa­per. “Bad Martin Scors­ese and Mick Jag­ger.”

Anti-hero-porn

Vinyl is just the lat­est it­er­a­tion of HBO anti-hero porn. The orig­i­nal anti-he­roes, of course, were bad boy celebrity chefs like Marco Pierre White, who nowa­days has a dual ex­is­tence as a black-and-white pho­to­graph of a young man smok­ing a cig­a­rette and a crum­pled, squint­ing middle aged man who judges our choices.

At the mo­ment, he shills his restau­rant as The Restau­rant (TV3, Wed­nes­day) and as­sesses the idio­syn­cratic cook­ing of Ir­ish celebri­ties. This is the culi­nary equiv­a­lent of be­ing a judge at the Com­mu­nity Games. Fel­low ex­perts Clodagh McKenna and Tom Door­ley are aware of this, but no one has told White, who uses his glasses as a prop and makes gnomic pro­nounce­ments as though, off cam­era, an in­tern is carv­ing them in stone. Maybe they are. I’ve no idea how he lives. And who wouldn’t want the words “It’s like kiss­ing an ugly woman. I’m go­ing back for more” etched on their man­tel­piece?

This week, health-ob­sessed Fin­nish spoil­sport Dr Eva Orsmond – who, we are told, “makes peo­ple laugh and cry in equal mea­sure” – cooks for a room filled with self-di­ag­nosed “food­ies” (this lies some­where be­tween a fetish and a med­i­cal con­di­tion). Of course, Ir­ish peo­ple are fierce judg­men­tal about food th­ese days. It’s been at least 10 years since “pesto” re­placed “the famine” at the bedrock of the Ir­ish col­lec­tive un­con­scious, and now we can pho­to­graph our din­ners with the best of them.

Eva makes steak tar­tar – raw mince with an un­cooked egg on top (it has the look of a bizarre farm­yard ac­ci­dent) – and mea­sures out fun-elud­ing por­tions of squid. Then she and her team watch on a mon­i­tor as the guests eat, which is pre­sum­ably some­thing that hap­pens now in restau­rants. Poor Eva wants her meals to make a healthy point, but few out­side of the ve­gan com­mu­nity want their din­ner judg­ing them. “Peo­ple don’t like healthy cook­ing,” con­cludes Eva. The judges seem to like it. They are in their el­e­ment, scoff­ing thought­fully and mis­pro­nounc­ing French.

And Eva is happy enough. Sadly, she never quite matches the messy ex­u­ber­ance of an­other, much-loved Scan­di­na­vian gas­tronomer, the orig­i­nal bad boy of cook­ery, a mav­er­ick food fu­sion­ist with a heady dis­re­spect for the rules: the Swedish Chef. Why doesn’t some­one make a gritty 10-part HBO drama about him?

Richie comes with a dis­em­bod­ied voice-over, like many other Scors­ese char­ac­ters and Gerry Adams in the 1980s

RuPaul and guest judge Deb­bie Reynolds in an episode of

RuPaul’s Drag Race. Pho­to­graph: Rolling Blackouts/Logo TV

PA­TRICK FREYNE

Noth­ing says rock’n’roll like sweaty men and board rooms, at least ac­cord­ing to Vinyl’s greasy take

Sul­lenly hand­some, rub­bery: Bobby Can­navale in Vinyl

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