By BRUCE DENNILL
Euphoria: Season One / Created by Sam Levinson / 18SNVLD
Vinyl: Season One / Created by Terence Winter / 18SNVLD
Succession: Seasons One to Three / Created by Jesse Armstrong / 16SNVL
Euphoria is not the kind of high school drama that John Hughes was fond of investigating. His protagonists were flawed and a little twitchy – not always the easiest people to get on with or empathise with, but youngsters you could identify with because at some point you had had, or anticipated, a similar experience. In this series, anchored by Zendaya – whose status as a former Disney starlet makes her role here all the more shocking – the mild misanthropes of The Breakfast Club or similar are relegated to geek status; their collective angst is outdone in a single text message, phone call or social media post in this contemporary series. If Euphoria is an accurate representation of American high school life (in a community with plenty of privilege, it needs to be said), it will – or should – initiate depression in viewers, particularly those with kids. Sex is a tool to augment or erode status, fumbled by immature young adults without the means to operate such an emotional juggernaut. Drugs cloud already defective perspectives. Love, where some form of it is actually sustained, is premised on unreasonable expectations. These characters are brittle. Their stories are brutal. And whether what happens on screen is an accurate reflection of reality or not, it’s profoundly disturbing to watch the insouciance with which many of these characters hurt each other, writing off the consequences of their actions as acceptable parts of their rites of passage.
Binge value: 3 / Family friendliness: 1 / Writing: 4 / Production values: 4 / Humour: 2 / Drama: 3 / Violence: 3 / Sex: 4 / Visuals: 3
Vinyl takes viewers to New York in the Seventies, into the offices of an old-fashioned record label run by the high-strung (emphasis on “high”) Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale, in a role he can – and does – throw his entire self into). “Old-finished” in this context refers to all the clichés largely missing in a by-the-numbers, auto-tuned digital music present: sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, and all in prodigious qualities. It’s fictional, but real events and musicians crop up from time to time to ground the series in the experience of at least some of its viewers. Being grounded is not high on the priority list of Finestra and most of his colleagues though, and Vinyl is, at its heart, a celebration of the wild, enduring passion for music that drives so many – musicians, A&R executives, label heads and more – to devote themselves to sourcing and sharing great music, and to making listeners understand just how great it is. There is very little restraint in the storytelling – it’s as loud as fast as Finestra’s personality and willingness to make a promise he may not be able to keep. The soundtrack is fantastic, and the historical aspect – watching real-life starts meander through the narrative as genres develop and become influential is as interesting as it is entertaining. More, please.
Binge value: 5 / Family friendliness: 1 / Writing: 4 / Production values: 4 / Humour: 3 / Drama: 4 / Violence: 3 / Sex: 4 / Visuals: 4
Succession follows the fortunes – literally and figuratively – of the Roy family, led by the imperious, emotionally pitiless Logan Roy (Brian Cox), who run a huge, influential media empire. There’s a hint – intentional or otherwise – of what Rupert Murdoch’s operations could be like behind the scenes, though that is never mentioned, simply adding a tinge of added real-world drama. Not that the series needs any help in that department. There is endless opportunity for conflict in the family, with Logan’s children Connor (Alan Ruck), Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Siobhan (Sarah Snook) each as greedy and ethically flexible as the other, though their intellect and canniness levels are different. The dialogue is whip-smart, fast and stuffed with black humour, equal parts a high-stakes financial thriller and dark comedy. None of the Roys are likeable in the have them over for dinner or leave them with your kids sense, but their divergent agendas, arrogance and aggression mean they are never boring. It’s train-wreck stuff, watching extraordinarily wealthy recalcitrant prioritise their own plans, almost always at the expense of those around them, and the performances are routinely excellent. You’ll love to loathe every one of these blighters.
Binge value: 5 / Family friendliness: 1 / Writing: 4 / Production values: 4 / Humour: 4 / Drama: 4 / Violence: 2 / Sex: 3 / Visuals: 4