In 2016 HBO launched “Vinyl,” its lavish Martin Scorsese-produced period drama about the music industry. Boasting a first season budget of around $100 million, and with Scorsese helming the premiere episode, hope was high the costly show would replicate the success the network and filmmaker had previously had with “Boardwalk Empire”.
It didn’t. Critically panned, the series crashed and burned from launch with soft ratings that only got worse, and the premium cabler cancelled the series after just one season. Speaking at the Rome Film Festival this week, Scorsese himself tells THR he blames his lack of hands-on involvement as the cause of its end – saying at this point he regrets not being there to direct each episode:
“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. If you do it, you do it right like [Paulo] Sorrentino does [with HBO’s “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.”
Despite his claim, a filmmaker directing every episode of an ongoing multi-season series is essentially unheard of, the closest we’ve gotten to date being Steven Soderbergh’s work on the first two seasons of “The Knick”. In addition, “Boardwalk Empire” was a big success for HBO that ran five seasons and that involved Scorsese in the exact same way he was involved with “Vinyl”.
Like Baz Luhrmann’s “The Get Down” released around the same time though, a combination of audience apathy towards stories about the 1970s music scene in New York City combined with massive budgets were not a good mix.