Vinyl: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray Review)

VinylVinyl, created by Golden Globe winner and Emmy® nominee Mick Jagger (Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown), Academy Award® winner and Emmy® winner Martin Scorsese (The Departed, Boardwalk Empire) and acclaimed author Rich Cohen and Academy Award® nominee and multiple Emmy® winner Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire), is set to make its Home Entertainment debut on Digital HD on May 23, 2016 and on Blu-ray with Digital HD and DVD with Digital HD June 7, 2016. Regarded as “the first new must-see series of 2016” (New York Magazine) and “crazy brilliant” (San Francisco Chronicle), the hit new drama series explores the drug- and sex-fueled music business of the 1970s New York at the dawn of punk, disco and hip-hop. Vinyl: The Complete First Season includes ‘Making Vinyl: Recreating the 70s’ featurette and Inside the Episode briefs. Exclusive to DVD and Blu-ray are audio commentaries by Terence Winter, Bobby Cannavale, Olivia Wilde, and where available, the Digital HD will include ‘Behind the Groove’ pieces.

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Richie Finestra, the founder and president of American Century Records, is trying to save his company and soul without destroying everyone in his path. With his passion for music and discovering talent gone by the wayside, and American Century on the precipice of being sold, he has a life-altering event that reignites his love of music, but severely damages his personal life.

HBO’s most hyped new show of 2016(And likely in the past few years or since True Detective) was that of Vinyl.  The show chronicling a fictional take on music history of the recording industry in 1970s New York brought to us by music legend Mick Jagger and film directing legend Martin Scorsese along with a legendary HBO producer Terence Winter. It was supposed to punch us in the face and be the talk of town.  Instead, many turned on it and called it a disappointment.

I can’t rather get on board with the whole disappointment thing.  It hasn’t lived up to the greatness hype that it was supposed to be, but its all on the table for it to become that.  Starting off with a 2 hour episode is risky and a lot to ask for someone to do in today’s viewing climate.  There are so many other things to watch on any given night, or to catch up on from your DVR that 2-hours is a bit much of ones time and a block they have to set out do so in.  And then, when the premiere really could have tried and condensed its story into 1 hour, that hurts it to.  Not a whole lot of interesting stuff happens in Vinyl’s first hour that couldn’t have been meshed into its more interesting second hour which has the show’s hook in it.

This first season doesn’t have a complete confidence in itself and sort of jumps around on different subplots to see what would work on the show and which characters keep the show interesting and not.  Its hit and miss and takes risks and chances.  Not enough of it works.  Personally, for me, I enjoy more of the record industry stuff with the sorta fake history stuff woven in and areas where I can learns things about music.  The murder/police investigation plot and a lot of the relationship melodrama bits are what didn’t quite fully work for me in this first season.  But, now that stakes are more there and a precedent set, the second season could improve on these things.

Regardless of the plots that work and don’t work, the show is fantastically acted.  Bobby Cannavale the perfect actor for a Scorsese project and he doesn’t disappoint.  He gets to go all over the map in one season where it may take another show a couple seasons to take a character on the arc he experiences.  Olivia Wilde is also at a personal best while making love to all the period outfits she’s wearing as if she is a person meant to be in this era.  Her performance only compliments that.  One of the most interesting characters comes from Juno Temple, who is quite impressive in her role and subplots here.  Ray Romano once again shows us that when handed it, he can take care of drama.  While not in the show past the first episode, Andrew Dice Clay makes a hell of an impression, leaving his character to loom largely over the rest of the first  season.

To simplify to a pitch for Vinyl, this is really easy.  Its Mad Men in the 1970s record industry, as told by Martin Scorsese.  Or Mad Men meets Goodfellas.  That’s really how it plays.  And how not entertaining does that sound?  While Vinyl is the unusual HBO show that is still finding its way in its first season, it still succeeds enough to be able to tell that if given the chance, this show has the potential to hit its stride in a second or third season to become one of TV’s best.  For right now though, its an interesting project, that’s well done in terms of acting and directing, it just needs to up its game in the story and script department.  Its still above average right now, but there is no denying plenty of room for improvement.  Catch up though, because I have a feeling that this show is going to be worth it.

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Yesterday Once More

Whispered Secrets

The Racket

He In Racist Fire


The King And I


Rock And Roll Queen


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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail:  Vinyl carries a unique look and texture in its appearance.  While shot digitally, this has had a lot of post work to it to make the it have an appearance of a film shot in the 1970s but cleaned up to look nice for now with its grain intact.  Its still very detailed, sharp and crisp.  For what its trying to do, it accomplishes and looks rather gorgeous doing so.  

Depth:  There is a good sense of distance and free moving characters in the image.  It doesn’t usher in a fully 3 dimensional kind of look because that’s not the intention of the aesthetic.

Black Levels:  Blacks are rich and carry a lot of grain in their appearance.  Detail is still visible on hair follicles, surfaces and clothing that are dark in nature.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are very full and bold in this 1970s palette on display.  Browns and yellows come on strong.  More vibrant colors aren’t afraid to come through either, especially when Devon gets to wear stuff like that stunning red dress.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones go natural or kinda have a super 1970s tinge to them.  Facial details like stubble, scuffs, make-up and wrinkles all come through nicely.

Noise/Artifacts: Nothing that isn’t intended

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Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  Vinyl is a loud, in your face mosh pit when it wants to be, and a thoughtful detailed depiction of a working office when it needs to be as well.  There are plenty of layers, details and nuances captured in its mix that make it quite the treat on the ears to listen to.  When music is played, you blast off right into a concert, during moments in a diner you can hear changed picked off the next table over, in Vegas you get he sounds of slots illuminating your ears.  

Low Frequency Extension:  Music gets a good boom and kick from the drums and bass, but also punches, gunshits, vases smashed and of course a building crumbling down help the subwoofer to shake the room.

Surround Sound Presentation:  There are good little ambient sounds place strategically among the 5 channels.  Every environment is a fully realized arena, ready to go.  Action, movements, loudness, distortion are all moved and shaken throughout your viewing area.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clean and crisp.

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Vinyl: The Complete First Season comes with an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the entire first season.  Each episode comes with the ability to watch the preview for the episode.

Disc 1

Audio Commentary

  • “Yesterday Once More” – With Bobby Cannavale (Richie), Olivia Wilde (Devon), Ray Romano (Zak), Allen Coulter (Executive Producer, Director) and Terence Winter (Creator, Executive Producer, Writer)

Inside The Episodes – These are quick little story analysis pieces with Terence Winter that aired on HBO and were attached to OnDemand and streaming episodes.

  • “Pilot” (HD, 2:46) 
  • “Yesterday Once More” (HD, 2:52) 

Disc 2

Audio Commentary

  • “Whispered Secrets” – With Max Casella (Julie), Juno Temple (Jamie), Jack Quaid (Clark), Mark Romanek (Director) and Terence Winter (Creator, Executive Producer, Writer)

Inside The Episodes

  • “The Racket” (HD, 3:27) 
  • “He In Racist Fire” (HD, 3:04) 

Disc 3

Audio Commentary

  • “E.A.B.” – With Bobby Cannivale (Richie), Olivia Wilde (Devon), Randall Poster (Music Supevisor), Meghan Currier (Music Supervisor) and Terence Winter (Creator, Executive Producer, Writer)

Inside The Episodes

  • “Cyclone” (HD, 3:41) 
  • “The King And I” (HD, 3:57) 
  • “E.A.B.” (HD, 4:31) 

Disc 4

Inside The Episodes

  • “Rock And Roll Queen” (HD, 3:16) 
  • “Alibi” (HD, 6:25) 

Making Vinyl: Recreating The 70s (HD, 18:32) – A little mini doc that serves as a sort of making of that interviews Mick Jagger, Martin Scorsese, Terence Winter, Olivia Wilde, Bobby Cannavale as well as other members of the cast and crew.

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Vinyl‘s first season isn’t perfect, but its one that shows plenty of promise for the future.  It jumps around a lot of places seeing what fits and what doesn’t.  This Blu-ray from HBO comes with a terrific presentation of the show, but sadly lacks in supplying a bunch of generic extras.  That’s what honestly keeps the score just shy of being a solid 4.  It does have a rather cool slip as a part of the packaging that’s textured like a record.  Scorsese fans, and those that like the show should pick it up when there’s a nice HBO sale going on.



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “Vinyl: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Completely agree with the review here. Potential for the second season, if it can figure out what it does best.