Tuesday, December 23, 2014

'Mozart in the Jungle'

Classical musicians seem like the least likely suspects for an edgy, adult-oriented dramedy, and the pilot for Amazon's Mozart in the Jungle tries way too hard to convince the audience that oboists and cellists and conductors get up to just as much debauchery as rock musicians or actors or athletes. Instead of trusting the audience to be interested in a look into this little-seen world, the show piles on the sexual innuendo, drinking and back-stabbing, and while it's mildly entertaining, it ends up short-changing the show's main unique quality (that it's about classical musicians).

Gael Garcia Bernal gets top billing as a bad-boy conductor (who's been on the cover of Rolling Stone!) brought in to shake up the stagnant New York symphony orchestra, but his character is pretty cartoonish so far. More appealing is the actual main character, a young up-and-coming oboist named Hailey (Lola Kirke, sister of Girls' Jemima Kirke), who gets a shot at a spot in the orchestra thanks to a time-honored cliche (playing beautifully when she doesn't realize an important person is listening). Kirke is charismatic and down-to-earth, and Hailey seems like a person worth watching over multiple episodes. Saffron Burrows is fun as the man-eating cougar of a cellist, but she's every bit as cartoonish as Bernal's Rodrigo.

Co-created by Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola, Mozart in the Jungle should exude more New York sophistication and wit, but instead it mostly feels like Amazon's attempt to play catch-up with the likes of Entourage or House of Lies. I've only seen the pilot, so maybe the rest of the season ends up being more character-driven and less self-consciously salacious, but the first episode doesn't really have me eager to find out.

Season 1 premieres on Amazon Prime today. 

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