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Martin Scorsese projects have sometimes been known to take a while to get from concept to production, but it’s usually a film at the center. (Like Silence, for instance.) This time, though, it’s a still-untitled rock & roll-centered HBO drama. It’s been almost a year since the series finally cast its lead with Bobby Cannavale (Nurse Jackie); thankfully more have been added recently, making me believe we may one day see this thing. The latest to join this gritty story is Ray Romano, the stand-up comic best known for the long-running sitcom Everybody Loves… I can’t think of the name right now, so we’ll move on.
The series, once called History of Music years ago when it was first conceived, is set in New York City in the midst of the drugs, sex and more drugs-filled world of the 1970s music business, which is just beginning to embrace punk and disco. (I’m sure that had nothing to do with the drugs either.) Cannavale plays Richie Finestra, the street tough brains behind the American Century record label, whose past goes back to the days when the mob was invested in the music industry. We can probably expect that past to haunt him.
Romano will star as Zak Yankovich, Richie’s closest confidante and right hand man, and presumably not a distant cousin to “Weird” Al. I think Romano is a funny guy, though I haven’t ever really enjoyed the series he’s been in, including Men of a Certain Age, though his Asperger’s afflicted character in Parenthood is a good fit for him. In any case, I think he and Cannavale will make a splendid pair, especially if the dialogue is quick and the humor is dark and as far from broad as possible.
The cast also includes Olivia Wilde, who will play Richie’s former actress wife Devon, whose Bohemian lifestyle becomes a big issue. And American Century’s A&R department will be comprised of Julian (Max Casella), a young exec named Clark (Jack Quaid) and assistant Jamie (Juno Temple).
The series has an all-star squad of executive producers, as Scorsese is joined by Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire), George Mastras (Breaking Bad) and Rolling Stones’ lead singer Mick Jagger, who partially conceived the concept behind the show as a film. Scorsese will direct a script from Winter and Mastras, who will also serve as showrunner.
HBO has reignited its own fires in recent years with the dragons of Game of Thrones and the tense depravity of True Detective. Will a drama about the coked-up record biz strike the same chords with audiences? If not, we can always look forward to hearing Ray Romano’s voice on the next seventeen Ice Age sequels.