Takeshi enlists Vernon to help him in his investigation. An extreme organic damage event is scheduled at Suntouch House.
Season 1, Episode 9: “Rock and Roll Queen”
Directed by Carl Franklin
Written by Debora Cahn
* For a review of the previous episode, “E.A.B” – click here
* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “Alibi” – click here
Richie (Bobby Cannavale) is trying to get himself out of jail, drug sweats and all. He and his lawyer are in an interrogation room trying to work things out. But things are looking rough for Mr. Finestra. There’s a deal being worked out. If Richie will help the feds bring down Corrado Galasso (Armen Garo), then he’ll be all right. Otherwise it’s manslaughter, as well as a possibly tough god damn time in jail.
Over at American Century Records, Maury Gold (Paul Ben-Victor) is making things complicated for everyone. Zak (Ray Romano) is not too happy, but does what’s needed to get by. Maury’s an old school-type, also one who’s connected tightly to the mob. This is a messy situation for Richie.
In a room with her new photographer friend Billy (Richard Short), Devon (Olivia Wilde) is embracing the photographer in herself once more. Also, they’re pretty much falling love. Or for the time being it’s a sexual release for her. Either way, she is free of Richie. For how long who knows.
Boardroom time. ACR is trying to get moving again, to start signing a few new acts and so on. In the mix, again, is Maury, which sort of makes everybody nervous. Julie (Max Casella), Skip (J.C. MacKenzie) and the rest are discussing business; The Nasty Bits, even the prospect of Hannibal coming back to the label, et cetera. Not everything is hunky dory, though. A bit of interjection from Maury causes a dull uproar over the direction of the label, the sub-label. All of it. And when things get too much for Richie, he goes to do some cocaine. Instead, he opts to toss it. Is this a new side to him? He needs his wit to deal with the cops. Better off without the coke.
Everyone’s in a bit of a hard spot. Jamie Vine (Juno Temple) is kicked out on the streets, though, she does have Kip (James Jagger) to take her in, to comfort her. Meanwhile, Clark (Jack Quaid) is attempting to get along with his new colleagues, doing a decent job so far; I feel there’s more to his story that’s coming, I hope so anyways.
Trying to kick the habit, Richie has to watch everyone around him snort to their heart’s content. Joe Corso (Bo Dietl) is around, too. Being an idiot. Is it realistic to believe Richie will be able to get himself clean?
At a photo shoot for The Nasty Bits, manager Lester Grimes (Ato Essandoh), Andrea Zito (Annie Parisse) and Jamie try to corral the band. When Kip gets a bit pissy, Danny (Rodrigo Lopresti) offers to chop off his long locks to make things balanced. Looks like there may be a future for this little punk outfit after all.
Julie goes to Richie, about some acts, all that stuff. Well, he ends up talking about Devon, seeing her at the bar during the last episode. The two men bond over broken marriages. But Julie has a few choice words for his boss and friend over all the things happening, personal life and business wise, every last bit of it. Nothing is sunny at ACR. No one is happy, especially not the guys who’ve been there longest like Julie, Zak, the others. Even Cece (Susan Heyward) – she’s got issues with Hannibal returning.
Richie: “Screamin‘ your heart out into a mic, it ain‘t cheap anymore. And if you don‘t have $800,00 in the bank – truth and sound, it ain‘t available.”
There’s a lot of things happening at the office. Andrea’s not pleased with the “stupid fucking twats” around banging the acts, from Cece – now pregnant – to Jamie, whose semi-management of The Nasty Bits is slightly jaded for the fact she’s sleeping with Kip.
At the same time, Lester is very unhappy. The sight of Gold in their boardroom absolutely crushes him. He is not impressed with Richie and his involvement with Maury/Galasso. So many things are basically crumbling around Finestra, from the actual label itself to the employee-employer relationships to, obviously, his shattered marriage. Speaking of which, Devon is supposedly living her “divorce fantasy“, but it’s anything other than that to her. “I don‘t know what I‘m doing,” she tells her friend desperately.
So Richie goes searching for her. He ends up at the apartment where Devon stays with Billy, just as the latter is trying to kill a bat flying around. This is a hilarious situation, after Richie whacks Billy in the face accidentally with a tennis racket, trying to help. Then, he realizes who the guy is, and they slowly shuffle away from each other. When Devon shows up, naturally, they argue. She makes clear the rift between them is not closing, not anytime soon, anyways. He loves her, but like everything else in his life there’s always this necessity to do the easy thing, not the right thing. Which only ends up making his life that much harder. At least he gets to see his kids for a bit.
Devon: “You stood in front of me coked out of your mind and told me you spent the week with a dead man.”
Richie: “Yeah, and you fucked a live one.”
At Kip’s place, he and Danny and Jamie rock out together. Is this a burgeoning threesome situation? Could mean for some nasty band relationships. Right now, it’s as if Kip doesn’t mind a whole bunch. The three of them are enjoying themselves. Let’s see how long the Golden Age of their good times lasts.
Zak and Richie have a bit more personal time together. The former does his best to ensure Richie his marriage will get better. A good drunk, a nice fuck, all is forgiven. Then there’s Clark, who heads out for another night in the clubs with that good music spinning on the tables. He’s busy trying to get Indigo’s new album out for some play. Except it clears the dance floor after the DJ puts it on for people to hear. Not a hit. At least not immediately. A minute or two pass by and then people start grooving, dance circles form, and the music gets people to move.
On the phone, Zak gets a call from Vegas to fly him out, free of charge. Because of his “patronage“, what he says was only $800 at the table. He and Skip talk, but it’s not immediately evident to Zak what’s happened. Although, the seed is planted in his mind. It grows, quickly. The concept of Richie’s betrayal dawns on him. What an awful feeling and a terrible turn of events, particularly for Richie who has enough trouble already.
So Zak gives Richie a few whacks in the elevator. He takes out his rage, best he can. This is a true fracture, a possibly unfixable one in their relationship.
After his beating, Richie goes to the Chealsea Hotel. He sees Devon, admitting that he killed Buck Rogers, in self-defense, but also that he tried covering it up. This is what made him fall off the wagon. He comes clean to her about every last detail. Clearly shocks her to the core. Why wouldn’t it?
But where does this go from here? Will Devon somehow understand the plight of her husband? Will she help him? Or is Richie about to fade away into the muck and mire of addiction? Hard to tell. I’d like to think he’s going to face things head on. There’s no guarantee either way. One thing’s for sure: Richie has the spirit of rock n’ roll flowing through his veins, it’s only a matter of whether he can keep himself from going off the deep end. If so, American Century Records could turn things around.
Richie may not live to see that day. In the end, he decides to take the deal and help the cops take down Galasso. Uh oh.
Stay tuned for the Season 1 finale “Alibi”, which airs next week. Loving this series. Excited to see where the finale takes us and where Season 2 will begin from afterwards.
Season 1, Episode 8: “E.A.B.”
Directed by Jon S. Baird
Written by Michael Mitnick
* For a review of the previous episode, “The King and I” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Rock & Roll Queen” – click here
Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale), his boys Zak (Ray Romano) and Skip (J.C. MacKenzie) are out talking with a loan officer named Allen Charnitski (Michael Kostroff). Trying their best to woo him, which starts with Skip hugging the man as they come in the bank, to awkward reception especially from Richie. But life goes on. They do the best they can. Although, their best may not be enough.
Meanwhile, Richie needs some cocaine. He needs to get things done and that requires the boost he knows will work.
Richie: “And besides, Sigmund Freud, Thomas Edison, Sherlock Holmes – they all thrived used cocaine.”
Zak: “Sherlock Holmes; not a real person.”
Richie: “Give me the fucking coke!”
In other news, Andrea Zito (Annie Parisse) is trying to turn the company image around. She’s left dealing with Hal Underwood (Jay Klaitz), whom she eventually fires because he’s outdated like a dinosaur in a cheap shirt. Plus, this shows us how big her balls are, and that she can get shit done.
Lester Grimes (Ato Essandoh) is still going hard at managing The Nasty Bits. Kip Stevens (James Jagger) has all but completely lost his edge, as the band is now some sort of watered down bit of Brit Pop. Doesn’t seem like Richie’s too impressed anymore – they’re opening up for the New York Dolls soon. He tries to light a fire under the Bits. Jamie (Juno Temple) and Julie (Max Casella) watch on, as Richie talks about how their demo was the “soundtrack” for “all the madness of this city” and that they need to recapture that essence. “I don‘t need a hit, guys,” Richie explains: “I need a Nasty Bits song.”
Zak and Scott (P.J. Byrne) attempt to sign the singer from the Bat Mitzvah – Gary (Douglas Smith) – whose voice they hope to exploit, in order to get American Century Records back on track proper. And his voice is incredible, for sure.
At the office, Richie finds Joe Corso (Bo Dietl) waiting. He’s worried about the cops poking around concerning Buck Rogers. They know about the three of them together that night. There’s all sorts of animosity between the two of them. Corso all but threatens to out Richie to the police if he’s caught himself. Yikes. That situation might degrade faster than expected.
In studio, Lester decides a lesson in “foundation” is necessary for the Bits when they’re tapped out. He drops a bit of rhythm on them all, even singing slightly to a riff. Nothing like the blues to get things hoppin’. “Dirty it up,” Lester even suggests. This starts to get the blood flowing.
Richie deals with a bit of Skip’s mutinous feelings. He knows that Skip is likely doing the skimming that’s alluded to on his part. But in bust the other two yokels, flying high about signing the kid from the Bat Mitzvah. Zak is willing to put a lot on the line to get the guy signed, even putting his personal finance on the line – all because he still thinks he’s the one who lost all that money in Vegas, unknowing that Richie was the one who did them in. Afterwards, up turns Hal who is a Satanist of some sort, and lays a hex or something on everybody in the office. A hilarious and also kind of sad moment.
Up on the rooftop for a smoke, Lester bonds a little with Kip. Until Kip tries to get Lester to teach them his song, so they can turn it into a Nasty Bits tune. No response from the manager. For now.
At the same time, Clark (Jack Quaid) is making better friends at his new position in the mail room. He and one of the other guys bond also, only over a bit of cocaine. They bump a little then get to talking. Then to dancing.
Across town at the Chelsea Hotel, Devon (Olivia Wilde) has troubles with some of the neighbours. Not the place for children, that’s for certain. To stay she needs to produce more work, as they cater to artists. Those dreams of hers don’t come easy.
Maury Gold (Paul Ben-Victor) receives Richie at his office. The younger of the two is admitting to trouble with ACR. He starts leaning towards going to the mob, but Maury knows the price of those decisions. Richie doesn’t want to see his friends, particularly Zak, go in over their head. “Have you ever seen somebody choked to death?” asks Maury, as a preamble into his advice about going to the mob for loans.
At a club, Devon goes with friends to see Bob Marley (Leslie Kujo), Pete Tosh (Aku Orraca-Tetteh) and the gang onstage. Beautiful reggae music flows over the crowd, as everybody jams to the gorgeous rhythm. She sees John Lennon at a booth, but across the place Julie spies her. Interesting. Even more so because she ends up getting Lennon’s picture, as well as finding herself getting close to another man.
Richie and Zak head to see Corrado Galass0 (Armen Garo), whose disposition is scary to say the least. They manage to get a cash guarantee. Then there’s also a request to share office space. Naturally, the boys don’t push their luck and accept readily. Without admitting to any guilt, Richie tries assuring Zak things will be fine, and that he takes responsibility for the mess they’re in currently. Not long after Richie’s picked up by the police.
The cops try grilling Richie, but he’s a fairly cool cucumber under pressure. They’re very convinced of his guilt. Yet he manages to keep them off his back, for the moment. Then they bring up Corso’s name. They throw suspicion, doubt onto the fire. A tape is played for Richie. No surprise – they’ve bugged his office.
And so the plot thickens.
We end on the finale of this episode with The Nasty Bits playing a new tune. Their manager has come through big time. Zak and Scott each fantastize about the potential of Gary’s career. A nice little montage culminates with Richie in his jail cell, and a cut to Clark joining his new buddy on an excursion to a club somewhere in a big building, people dancing everywhere. Amazing. Like Clark stepped into a brand new world.
Excited for the penultimate episode of this season. A great show. Not my favourite episode, but a good one. Stay tuned with me for “Rock & Roll Queen” next Sunday!
Season 1, Episode 4: “The Racket”
Directed by S.J. Clarkson
Written by Debora Cahn
* For a review of the previous episode, “Whispered Secrets” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “He in Racist Fire” – click here
This episode opens on Otis Blackwell (Gregory Bastien) singing “Please Help Me Find My Way Home”, crooning in lights, surrounded by colours. Only we morph into a scene at a funeral for the dead and gone Buck Rogers (Andrew Dice Clay). In the pews watching on sit a few of the American Century Records crew, such as Zak Yankovich (Ray Romano) and Skip Fontaine (J.C. MacKenzie).
Meanwhile, Richie Finestra (Bobby Canavale) and Devon (Olivia Wilde) are having couples counselling. Except using a tennis racket to smash a pillow, prescribed by their doctor, gives us edits of Richie from the couch to the memory of smashing Buck’s head in savagely. A great bit of writing and editing combined. “I don‘t want him to feel better, I want him to feel worse,” Devon makes clear to her therapist and Richie.
On the way back from the funeral, Zak, Julie (Max Casella) and the others chat about the situation at their label. Everyone’s worried. For his part, Julie sticks on Richie’s side; out of loyalty or the need of a job, that’s another story. Then there’s Richie snorting coke, ordering everyone around. Zak gets more and more pissed off with everything that’s going on. “Bunch of whiners,” screams Julie after the bitching gets too much for him. One great mention: Julie is headed into the studio with Mr. Robert Goulet (Matt Bogart).
Cut to the ACR office. Hannibal (Daniel J. Watts) shows up to fanfare, and a bit of racist leaning dialogue from a trying-too-hard white guy stating there’s “ribs” and all kinds of food for them. Only they’re “vegetarians now” so the white dude says: “Get this shit outta here.” Hilarious moment. Afterwards, Richie does his best to make Hannibal and the crew feel at home. In other news at the office, Jamie Vine (Juno Temple) and Clark Morelle (Jack Quaid) butt heads a bit, as the latter is trying to work his ass off and sign an act; Jamie’s beating him with The Nasty Bits so far.
Devon skims through a bunch of photos she took, specifically the mess Richie left, the guitar through the television. She resents Richie for going back to their old life, the one they agreed to leave behind, and that she gave up her old life, essentially, for nothing.
Over at the office, VIP-treating Hannibal, Richie attempts to spin him and his label as the best of the lot. He does give a good sell, maybe a bit of a hard one. Either way, people love to party with Richie, especially when he busts out a nice load of cocaine for them to start railing. A nice jazzy record goes on. Despite his faults, Richie knows damn good music. They vibe and get high. So Richie’s not particularly dedicated to doing better for his marriage. He’s more concerned with business than his relationship, the love of his life. And then there’s the fact Hannibal, as well as others, look at Richie (and ACR) in a different light because of the non-sale of the label. Richie does good for now, though. He knows what Hannibal digs.
In the midst of all that, Lester Grimes (Ato Essandoh) arrives to see Riche. As do The Nasty Bits. Yet even though Lester arrives later than them, he goes in first. “Welcome to American Century,” Lester tells the boys: “Get ready to take it up the ass.”
Zak and Scott Levitt (P.J. Byrne) each reminisce, as well as lament, their time at American Century Records. They don’t like how Richie treats them. All the same, even if they’re decent at their jobs, they don’t fit well with the music business. Rock n’ roll Richie does, faults and major flaws aside. “I‘m a relationship person,” Zak declares – then complains about his steak being “too rare” and sends it back. Moment full of irony there, as he bitches saying Richie is only all about himself. Found it worth a chuckle.
Then there’s Skip. He heads down to a factory pressing records. There are problems with some of the shady shit they do at ACR. Turns out there are issues with one of the latest shipments. Will this bring legal troubles? You can be sure it’s nothing good. God damn Donny Osmond.
With Curtis Mayfield playing over the scene, Richie receives Lester Grimes, as Hannibal still kicks around, then Goulet shows up with questions. So many things happening at once. At least Hannibal finds himself busy with the beautiful black secretary in Richie’s office. In the lobby, The Nasty Bits aren’t happy with waiting around so long, and Jamie has to fund their dinner.
Lester’s not happy with the tapes. He can’t sing anymore and it hurt him. In front of Richie, he burns the tape and tosses it in a wastebasket. This starts a little fire that sets off the sprinklers. Janis Joplin (Catherine Stephen) shows up in another one of those cutscenes, singing her heart out.
Busy with a possible divorce, Devon talks to a lawyer. That’s what the pictures are doing now, serving as evidence of Richie’s unstable nature, his drug abuse, et cetera. The conversation gets out of hand for Devon and she ends up with a lot of advice from the lawyer, plus a big charge. The lawyer says she’s not getting a divorce apparently. We’ll see about that.
The Nasty Bits and Lester end up chatting, drinking at a bar. He has lots to say about signing with a studio, all the downsides of the supposedly glamorous life. He’s almost hellbent to destroy any further acts from signing with Riche. Wouldn’t you be? Raw deal for Lester. He explains the royalties and “all that shit” which end up going to the label, everything the artists who are dying to sign contracts don’t know or understand.
Richie gets ready then has to go sign The Nasty Bits. Or try, anyways. Much of what Lester warned begins to happen. Lead singer Kip Stevens (James Jagger) then introduces their new manager: Lester fucking Grimes. “You two go back, don‘t ya?” Kip asks with a tongue firmly planted in cheek.
Skip’s not having much of a good time. At a store, he finds his Donny Osmond marketing isn’t going so hot. Their old operation does not fly anymore. It’s slipping through their fingers and Skip doesn’t feel too calm.
In the office, Lester battles it out with Richie. He’s not pleased with Lester, for the office burning up, gold records damaged, as well as the demands he is making for The Nasty Bits. An offer gets laid on the table. But the conversation turns to the young man whom Richie heard at the club in the first episode, where he finally encountered Lester again; the turntable guy from Lester’s building. Maybe Lester might become the manager for his early hip hop DJ act? Hopefully so.
Bit more friction at the label. Clark runs afoul of Marvin (Ephraim Sykes), claiming there’s talk that he’s only a token black guy, to bring in black artists, “the brothers” and all that. Is Clark playing games? Trying to find an angle in on keeping/securing his job? The record business is getting ruthless.
Hannibal runs into the sleazy Jackie Jarvis (Ken Marino), who puts a negative spin on anything Richie-related. He claims to be a “fan” of Hannibal’s music, no matter what label the band is on. Big show, and backstage Cece (Susan Heyward) the secretary watches on. Will Richie make it in time? Perhaps another brick in the wall of ACR’s mausoleum, unless things turn around. Their negative look could definitely be their downfall, especially with people unhappy working there.
Plus, Richie gets word of Jarvis at the show. While he snorts more coke in the low light of his office. Always something. And at his door, up show some detectives. Neither of them appear too impressed with Richie, though, they seem to dig Robert Goulet and want to know more about his latest Christmas album. Richie’s presence was expected at the funeral, casting suspicion on him. All the while, he has flashbacks of Buck, both alive and while being killed. The editing again is awesome here. Things get dicey for Rich, being the last number called from Rogers’ place the night of his murder. Uh oh.
Bit of Goulet in the studio recording his holiday songs. Although, Zak and Julie sit in the back, disgusted with how low they’re supposedly stooping. Then Skip is across town offloading a ton of Donny Osmond records in some building, somewhere. All the wheels of ACR turn rusty and with a ton of grease. Richie spins out of control, wondering what’s next to fall apart. The Nasty Bits celebrate with Jamie upstairs outside the office, punking it out on the fire escape drinking. Everybody’s in their own little pocket, troubles abound. Even the good situations are lined with an ominous tint.
At home, Devon gets a call from Richie. She tries to tell him about the divorce lawyer. He doesn’t hear anything, though. He only says he’ll be home “tomorrow” and hangs up. She goes back to scrubbing dishes in the dark, nearly scrubbing right through a pan. He treats her terribly. When will Devon finally break completely? Soon enough, no doubt. Right afterwards she starts hammering the window with the pan until it breaks.
Down the basement steps somewhere, Richie heads through a dimly-lit hallway and into a club with jazz playing, smooth and beautiful. Sitting there playing the trumpet, as it turns out, is Vince Finestra (David Proval) – father to Richie. They sit at the bar together. “You still dry?” asks Vince. Richie replies no, then some attitude comes out of dear old dad. There’s clearly bad blood there, too. They obviously don’t have a great relationship, which comes out in their conversation. “I need an alibi,” Richie tells his father.
Nice close to this episode with Nina Simone singing “Sinnerman” over the credits. Can’t wait for the next chapter, “He in Racist Fire”, so stay tuned with me next week.