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How ‘Vinyl’ Represents The Stunted Progress of Diversity on TV

How 'Vinyl' Represents The Stunted Progress of Diversity on TV

Bobby Cannavale is absolutely tremendous in “Vinyl.” Even just one episode in, he’s already proven himself Emmy-worthy as the wildly dysfunctional record company executive who just loves, loves, loves music (perhaps to his own detriment). Yet the reason he’s already qualified for the most coveted award in all of television is because he got so much screen time in the pilot, and he gets so much screen time because he’s the lead of the series. Based on early samples of supporting players Olivia Wilde, Juno Temple and newcomer Ato Essandoh, all of them seem like they could be contenders, as well, but we just haven’t seen enough of them yet to know for sure.

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And somewhere within this rather elaborate comparison lies the problem. “Vinyl” is a very well-made, very well-acted series, but it’s not exactly breaking the mold in terms of its main arc: a self-involved, rich asshole worries about business. While it worked for a few shows earlier in the golden age of television — “Mad Men,” specifically — so many more shows have come out since then to push the boundaries of who can lead a premium series and what those series can be about. Most of those shows were upstarts of sorts, though — like “Orange is the New Black” leading the charge in Netflix’s early days and “Transparent” helping to put Amazon on the map — instead of much-hyped premium dramas with Emmy prestige built-in before they even aired.

Keeping in mind the long-standing strategy of pay cable networks to appeal to the richest, whitest demographic possible as well as the similar background of “Vinyl’s” creative team, should we still be expecting more from the “big” shows coming out in today’s TV landscape? Should we be getting hyped for shows starring a woman or a minority telling stories we haven’t heard from perspectives that aren’t targeted at key demographics? And before you question the premise, ask yourself this: Would “Vinyl” have gotten the same hype behind it if it was about Olivia Wilde finding herself during a rough period in her marriage? Maybe. But maybe not.

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Discussing this and everything in between are Indiewire TV Editor Liz Shannon Miller and TV Critic Ben Travers, your hosts for Very Good TV Podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe to Very Good TV Podcast via Soundcloud or iTunes. Follow Indiewire on Twitter and Facebook for all your pertinent TV news — including interview with people like Ray Romano and more from the “Vinyl” cast — plus check out Liz and Ben’s Twitter feeds for more, more, more. Plus, don’t forget to listen to Indiewire’s other podcasts, Screen Talk with Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson, as well as Indiewire Influencers, hosted by Editor in Chief Dana Harris and featuring various guests relevant to anyone tracking independent film or entertainment in general.

Related Articles and News:
– Looking for more on “Vinyl”? Check out Ben’s review and Liz’s interview with Ray Romano.

– If you missed “SNL” this week, make sure to check out the highlights for some already classic Melissa McCarthy skits.

– Aziz Ansari and Eric Wareheim released one of the weirdest homages to ’90s sitcoms you’ll ever see. Don’t miss it.

– Dr. Dre is making Apple’s first original series, and it’s already stirring up issues.

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