Simply put - it's clichéd, tired, nostalgia-porn. It's got a checklist for a screenplay, a long list of things that the pilot needed to have - basically a list of nostalgia/rock 'n roll checkboxes, some Scorsese ones and the obligatory HBO ones.
This is the checklist: 1. Drugs - lots of it. Adds nothing to the story. Peaky Blinders had drug use, Mad Men had it, Breaking Bad had it. Here, it's forced and given too much attention. Vinyl tries to be edgy with something that already gets tons of screen time and hasn't been taboo on the screen or off for a long time. Check.
2. Sex. HBO style sex. Sex for no purpose. It's bad. GoT's Littlefinger teaching his prostitutes how to fake an orgasm bad. Again, sex on TV is not new or taboo. It's not edgy. You wanna know how bad it is? The executives have a meeting in an orgy. They're all dressed, having drinks at a table in the middle of a 30+ person orgy. It's so fake and forced. Seeking controversy for controversy's sake. Check.
With both the sex and the drugs - a strong story doesn't care what people think. This one cares too much and tries to hard.
3. Trashing an apartment. A record executive smashes his guitar on the TV screen. For no reason. Check.
4. A building collapses during a concert. The protagonist just happens to be there. Check.
5. Backstage dealings. Check.
6. Private plane. Check.
7. Lavish party. Check.
8. Woodstock reference despite no connection to story. Check.
9. Mafia-style beating of an artist. Check.
10. A drug-induced, Wolf of Wall Street type slapstick fight. (Kitchen scene: "Get off the phone") 11. Mad Men's Peggy Olson trying to make her way up the corporate ladder from sandwich girl to A&R. Check.
12. Marital problems with the protagonist over his substance abuse. Check.
13. Stage diving/band fights the audience. Check.
14. Record company screwing over an artist. Check.
15. Record company employee (sandwich girl) not only sleeping with new band frontman, but literally inventing the very ethos of punk during pillow talk.
16. People talking about music and nothing else. - "When I was a kid, I used to pretend my mum's broom was a guitar." No one talks about anything else but music, barely any politics, art scene, fashion, sports, club scene, etc. Don't people like anything else? I could keep going. These things are barely connected to each other. It's just a list of targets the screenplay needed to meet rather than a genuine story.
The problem is that these things I just mentioned are treated as themes rather than events with significance. So it's filled with themes and nostalgia, but little story. It's incredibly boring.
It misses the point of rock music entirely.
It shows rock as an insider club, one of VIP sections, private planes, money and lavish lifestyles. Yet rock is the music of outsiders, outcasts, people who have no where else to turn. Even successful rock artists, despite making it, still feel like successful outsiders.
They are outsiders and outcasts to their parents, authorities, church groups and so on. There were regular protests against rock concerts and albums, but this show treats rock as mainstream.
It conflates the counter-cultural art movement with the subverted, appropriated, mainstream idea of rock.
So many missed opportunities.
For a show filled with talented and artistic people, there is so little comedy.
The music performances on the show are too long and boring. I don't mind music segments in shows, but these moments are an opportunity to show a montage, to tell a story. One can use the lyrics to tell events that are happening (Breaking Bad: Negra y Azul: The Ballad of Heisenberg) or allude to themes and emotions indirectly (artist sings about his own lover, but it sounds as if film protagonist addressing his wife) But playing music and showing the artist playing the song is just boring. It does not move the story in any direction nor set the mood. This is done several times. It's just a waste of time.
The 4 stars I gave it are for its technical merits.
Data shows that after watching 3 episodes, one is supposed to be hooked on the show. I've watched the equivalent of 3 episodes (2 hours = 2.7 episodes of 44 minutes) and I sincerely don't care. I won't watch the rest.
It is a parody of the times, a parody of HBO and Scorsese's works, checklist and target driven rather than story, event and character driven.
It is the worst kind of rocksploitation. A must watch for anyone wanting to make something similar to avoid all the pitfalls.