There were many, many problems with HBO’s bloated 70s-set drama Vinyl, but director Martin Scorsese puts the blame on himself. The series had a budget of $100 million and big names behind the scenes, including Mick Jagger and Boardwalk Empire‘s Terence Winter, the latter of whom served as the series’ showrunner. Scorsese directed the two-hour pilot, but in speaking to THR at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday, that perhaps wasn’t enough:
“It was ultimately tragic for me because we tried for one year. I did the pilot. We tried for one year with HBO, but we couldn’t get the creative elements together. It was something that I realized, in order to make it right…I think I would have had to direct every episode and be there for the three to four years.”
I’m not sure that’s entirely true. While it can certainly help to have one director who can put their visual stamp on an entire season, Vinyl’s pilot also just … wasn’t that great. And that was Scorsese. The show was too big and too messy from the start. After a year, HBO cancelled it, but even that premiere (with Scorsese’s name attached!) only drew 764,000 viewers — one of the smallest for an HBO premiere. HBO also later cut ties winter Winter over creative differences before throwing in the towel on Season 2.
“If you do it, you do it right like [Paolo] Sorrentino does,” Scorsese said of The Young Pope. “You do everything. You do it all…If you don’t (want to make that commitment), you shouldn’t be making the series.” As the piece also notes, he referenced Baz Luhrmann‘s cancelled musical series The Get Down on Netflix as another example.
Of course, there are far more examples of series that don’t have one director throughout or a director/showrunner combo that are extremely successful and run for a long time. It takes a particular kind of alchemy, and Vinyl just didn’t have it. It’s disappointing, sure, but it’s certainly not one person’s fault or a case where one tweak would have solved things. Vinyl was the opposite of a series like David Simon‘s The Deuce, which weaves together powerful street-level character narratives to create a compelling portrait of 1970s New York. So yeah, if Vinyl swore you off 70s-set series on HBO, don’t let it! Try out The Deuce and pour one out for what could have been with Vinyl.