In case you live under a rock, Game of Thrones returns to our living rooms on April 24. I, for one, am jacked to the tits about its return. As newly casted GoT member Ian McShane said earlier this spring “Game of Thrones is just tits and dragons,” and we could all use more of those things in our damn lives.
But the real question is: how should you be spending your TV time in the weeks leading up to the premiere? It’s a noble question, and one which I would typically answer with pre-capping the premiere by re-watching Game of Thrones to build maximum anticipation. But let me tell you, things done changed.
Society is in the middle of a renaissance the likes the world hasn’t seen since Michelangelo was swingin’ below the knees in the Sistine Chapel. There is literally TOO much TV to watch nowadays. The quality out there is pretty staggering. Which is why the answer to the aforementioned question is that you should start watching Billions and Vinyl A$AP Rocky.
Yes, your working knowledge of all things Westeros may suffer by the time the new season of GoT kicks off… But the payoff is worth it. Vinyl and Billions are a new sense of prestige drama. In their essence, they are great shows. But they deviate from the typical no nonsense, lack of backhanded humor and edginess that typical prestige dramas such as Breaking Bad characterized. But here’s the real reasons why you should back burner your GoT catchup for these programs.
If you’re into a plot where two egomaniacs are driven by testosterone and pride, this is the show for you. Sgt. Brody (Damian Lewis) returns to the small screen as Bobby (“Axe!”) Axelrod, an hedge fund titan, fueled by his rivalry with Chuck Rhodes, a district attorney with an axe to grind (pun intended) with Axelrod, played by Paul Giamatti.
The unique and most compelling aspect about the show, is the nature of their relationship. Viewers (or at least myself) are drawn to support of Axe more so than Rhodes. Something I would categorize as atypical, since our society breeds hatred for the wealthy, especially when the wealthy make their fortune on market manipulation. But despite this, Axe is portrayed as one Bad Motherf*cker, garnering him wide favorability. And sheeeeeeet,
he’s even a noble family man and rock solid friend. Contrast Axe to the personality of Rhodes, who is a sexual hedonist and whose family life is anything but stable. He is a man driven by fulfilling personal vendettas. Their rivalry and personality dichotomy is majjjjjor key (as the kids say).
Throw in some strong acting from Maggie Siff/Malin Akerman as the wives of Rhodes and Axe respectively, and the long overdue return of Gale Boetticher (David Costabile), whose frat-star verbosity shines through, and you will soon see why Billions has become one of the most entertaining shows on television. Oh, and working at Axe Capital looks like not such a bad life for a cube monkey.
In a different, but equally compelling, way Vinyl has become one of the most captivating hours of television. Don’t get me wrong, this show has plenty to work on. But, the blunders are easily overshadowed by the world that has been created by Terrence Winter (Boardwalk Empire show runner) and Il Duce himself, Martin Scorsese. The two have continued their bombastic triple threat with Bobby Canavale, who also worked on Boardwalk as Gyp Rosetti. Well picture Gyp Rosetti, but typecast him into the 1970s as a down on his luck record man (And if you haven’t seen Boardwalk, get on that son). There is booze, there is cocaine, there is nudity and there is raw, glass shattering rock and roll.
The beauty of the show is that even though Cannavale’s protagonist, Richie Finestra, can come across as stale (in the sense that his struggle is one that been depicted countless times), his world is anything but. Hard to argue that the 1970s New York rock scene wasn’t one of the most fantastical environments to live in/witness. There are many real life rocker imitations, including David Bowie, Robert Goulet, Robert Plant and fantastic portrayals of Alice Cooper/Elvis. But the show is really at its best when it’s running on the Mad Men model. That is, the everyday functionality of the office at Century Records (Finestra’s label). Juno Temple has turned in a fantastic performance as Jamie Vine, an ambitious American Century secretary. Every Sunday night you hope that her screen time increases from the previous week as she has been under utilized to say the least. Expect her to take a similar character arc as Peggy Olson from Mad Men. Anxiety is up the wazoo for many of the characters, but surprisingly (and welcomingly) there’s much comedic relief to rest on. Especially from a remarkable performance by Ray Romano, as Century Records partner Zak Yankovic.
Sure, the show needs to better develop its female leads (although I’m fine with more Oliva Wilde nudes). It needs less focus on Richie’s stale pitfalls, and it generally needs to develop more continuity. But fuck man, the Vinyl world is so much fun. You better jump on now while you have time… BECAUSE WINTER IS COMING SON!