Thursday, February 25, 2016

Mozart in the Jungle Is Basically Slings & Arrows. So... Awesome and Hilarious

So, I’ve been pretty disillusioned with the teevee offerings, but then lo! I happened upon ye Amazon Prime. And yea, before me was Mozart in the Jungle. And there was much rejoicing.

Is it Slings & Arrows but with an orchestra? Yeah, kinda. That doesn’t mean it isn’t great and completely addictive.

Zombie Heath Ledger, is that you?

Gael García Bernal stars as Rodrigo, the flamboyant maté tea-drinking enfant terrible conductor of the New York Symphony orchestra. Brought in to replace aging, life-crisis-having Thomas (Malcom MacDowell), Rodrigo both inspires and infuriates the orchestra’s members and administrative staff (the latter embodied by Bernadette Peters).

Rodrigo’s first subversive act is to hire Hailey (“HAILAI!!”), the ingenue oboist, portrayed by Lola Kirke. Hailey subsists as struggling musician in New York by giving oboe lessons to sullen pre-pubescent students, and by playing in off-Broadway orchestras for sub-par trite musicals. Rodrigo hires Hailey because, as he says, she plays with “THE BLOOD,” but she is too inexperienced to keep pace with the older, more seasoned orchestra veterans.

Turns out, adults come up with as many innuendos about wind instruments as 12-year-olds.

Inspired by Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music by Blair Tindall (on whom Hailey is based), the show is a comedic look at the lives of classical music musicians and their business-oriented overlords. NPR doesn’t want to believe that artsy types take drugs and sleep around. Oh, NPR. You are adorable.

Executive producers are Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, and Paul Weitz (the latter occasionally directs). Schwartzman, who seems to have given up acting and has decided to make a career out of being a hirsute hipster, makes occasional appearances on the show as a pretentious classical music podcast presenter. Veteran actress Saffron Burrows appears as Cynthia, the borderline nyphomaniac cellist.

For those of us who wanted MOAR Slings & Arrows, Mozart in the Jungle serves as a pretty fair substitute. The Golden Globe-winning series is not just for classical music or art wonks, although it might be the most appealing to that demographic. Like Slings & Arrows, its humor does depend somewhat on inside jokes, but the rest of it is genuinely funny and quirky.

Or maybe it’s just funny to those of us who suffered through private music lessons and a crazy competitive band program inhabited by teenage music fascists. Maybe that’s just me.

Mozart in the Jungle is free for Prime members. Plebes will have to pay per episode/season.

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