Disco music mixed with salsa and opera, a lead character that spouts poetry, a teenage romance with a showbiz background, lots of disco dancing, Jimmy Smits in good form and a slightly camp look at a late 70s setting: The Get Down could have been made for me.
I loved the first episode (directed by Baz Luhrmann) and was intrigued by Ben Travers’s argument in IndieWire that TV series aren’t movies or novels, that they’re tv shows and constructed that way. But that the Get Down might be an exception in that the series, ‘isn’t constructed like a string of small arcs cut together to form a greater one. Instead, it really is put together like a film: one big arc made up of stunning, stand-out moments in between. Some of those moments function as satisfactory end points, while other episodes conclude seemingly at random — almost as though they were dictated by time’.
I’ll have to wait and see for myself. What I can say on the evidence of having seen only up to the second episode is that there are indeed stunning, stand-out moments – visually, musically, dramatically and in terms of performance – that are so far keeping me watching.
In the second episode, ‘Seek Those Who Fan Your Flames,’ directed by Ed Bianchi, I loved Grandmaster Flash teaching the kids how to spin a groove, Cadillac discoing his way to child murder and the beautifully visualised moment where all of the young characters’ dreams go up in flames.
I am particularly smitten by what Jimmy Smits is doing as Francisco ‘Papa Fuerte’ Cruz: he conveys the man’s ambition, the carnie tent barker qualities that make him a politician, the steel that makes him dangerous. He’s taking considerable chances in his acting choices: each can potentially cross a line and become too much. But they haven’t yet. He’s been consistently entertaining – he’s performing with an audience in mind; each gesture is done for effect– without yet being embarrassing. Quite the opposite. For me, his slightly florid performance is enough of a reason to see the show: in the clip below for example, I love the way he says the ‘not prohibited’ bit in the line ‘Violence is discouraged but not prohibited’ and the way he uses his hands and his eyes to accent the word ‘spiritual’ at the end of the clip. It’s marvellous. But marvellous as Smits is, The Get Down is as of yet offering so much more.