Netflix’s ’45 rpm’ is as tired as the boomer rock era it tries to honor

It’s amazing how exciting moments in music can feel so dull onscreen. 

U.S. viewers recently experienced this with HBO’s failed Vinyl and the short-lived, messy Netflix effort The Get Down. Now, Netflix has released a similarly uninspired effort for its rapidly growing Spanish audience, 45 rpm. The series, released globally last Friday, tells the ho-hum story of a revolutionary moment in Spanish rock music in the 1960s. With familiar beats delivered by trope-laden characters, the hour-long drama will do little more than remind you of better material.

 

45 rpm

 

RELEASE DATE: 8/16/2019
CREATORS: Ramón Campos, Gema R. Neira
STREAMING: Netflix
Yet another aggressively mediocre series about late-‘60s rock music and counterculture, but this time set in Madrid.

Guillermo (Iván Marcos) has a vision of creating a new record label that will bring the underground sounds of Spanish rock into the mainstream. He has the help of rakish singer-songwriter Rober (Carlos Cuevas) and the perpetually underestimated female assistant Maribel (Guiomar Puerta). Of course, all three of them are swept up in the revolutionary moment that surrounds them.

Ten minutes into the pilot, a room of curmudgeonly music executives belittles Guillermo and Maribel as a leather jacket-clad Rober gets booted offstage after crashing a concert. We are dealing with rebels, and if that wasn’t clear enough, they are going to spell it out for you. 

Later, Guillermo, feeling sabotaged by the powers that be, storms into the office of one of his doubters and shouts, “I’m here to change things, to change music!”

His stuck-in-his-way adversary sneers, “Yeah sure. You’re going to start a revolution?”

netflix 45rpm show MVSRS/YouTube

To say we’ve seen this before would be an understatement. In the first several episodes of 45 rpm, you can pretty much call every plot twist that unfolds. If you’ve watched much television since The Sopranos premiered in 1999, you won’t be surprised to hear that Guillermo is a difficult man who has visionary ideas and a winning charm, yet struggles with demons that might undermine our heroes’ entire enterprise.

Maybe 10 years ago, a show like this would have been received more charitably, and perhaps Spanish audiences will be glad to see a prestige drama about their culture, rather than more American imports. But after Mad Men, Halt and Catch Fire, Vinyl, and all the other television shows about troubled, visionary men and their attractive assistants who are tired of being women in a man’s world, you have to offer more than paint-by-numbers drama if you’re going to stand out.

Not only are there enough dramas about difficult men with big dreams to last us a lifetime, but the ’60s are particularly well-tread territory. The decade of counterculture, sexual revolution, and rock n’ roll is a favorite among baby boomers in the U.S. and abroad. At this point, it’s worth asking whether aging studio honchos and executive producers are more interested in the era than their audiences are. 

netflix 45rpm trailer MVSRS/YouTube

Woodstock, the cultural high-water mark of the era, just celebrated its 50th anniversary. That means anyone who remembers the era vividly is well into their sixties. The same goes for the British invasion and the student protests of 1968. Eventually, studios and creators will have to start asking if content set in this era deserves an automatic green light, and for whom all of this content is being made. Although streaming services don’t release ratings, the quick cancellation of similar efforts speaks volumes.

It does bear mentioning that the show’s production values are fine. It’s generally well-acted and produced, and the period costumes and sets do sell you on the era. The music, so important to projects like these, is cleanly produced with good singers. The leads are charming, if a little melodramatic.

Still, it’s going to take something fresh and captivating to stop viewers from simply rewatching That Thing You Do (set in 1964), Almost Famous (set in 1973), A Hard Day’s Night (released in 1964), or any other beloved film from or about the era. 45 rpm, like so many mediocre efforts before it, simply fails on this front, which is all the more frustrating considering the creative team clearly had the tools to make something more interesting.

Still not sure what to watch tonight? Here are our guides for the absolute best movies on Netflix, must-see Netflix original series, documentaries, docuseries, and movies.

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Brenden Gallagher

Brenden Gallagher

Brenden Gallagher is a politics reporter and cultural commentator. His work has been published by Motherboard, Complex, and VH1. He’s the co-founder of Beer Money Films, an indie production company. Based in Los Angeles, he works in television drama as a writers assistant.