Amazon original series gives classical music the attention it deserves

Courtesy of Amazon Studios
Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Just in time for the holiday season, Amazon released season one of “Mozart in the Jungle” on their Prime streaming service. Though Netflix is still top dog, Amazon Prime’s Instant Video service has been moving up the ranks ever since striking a deal with HBO for streaming their classics, such as “The Sopranos,” “Oz” and “The Wire.” With Netflix’s success in producing original content, Amazon followed suit with “Alpha House,” “Transparent” and most recently, “Mozart In The Jungle.” Whether you consider yourself a classical music aficionado or someone who can’t tell the difference between an arpeggio and an archipelago, this Amazon original dramedy will be a treat.

The series was created by Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman (who even guest stars in two episodes) and Alex Timbers. The show was inspired by Blair Tindall’s memoir, “Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs and Classical Music.” While “Mozart in the Jungle” is no “Orange is the New Black,” the mixture of comedy and drama are reminiscent of the Netflix dramedy for sure. “Mozart in the Jungle” is funny as hell with quippy dialogue delivered by a phenomenal cast, starring Bernadette Peters, Gael Garcia Bernal, Malcolm McDowell and Lola Kirke.

“Mozart in the Jungle” chronicles the trials and tribulations of 26-year-old oboist Hailey, played by Kirke, and Bernal as Rodrigo, the newly hired — not to mention hilarious — conductor of the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. Rodrigo hires Hailey as an oboist, but upon discovering her ingenue ways, Rodrigo takes her on as his go-to girl while helping her improve along the way. Though Rodrigo’s methods are a bit unorthodox, he, too, grows as a person, for his selfishness and impulsivity were only disserving him.

The first season consists of 10 half-hour episodes that are practically begging to be watched within a day — in fact, you can binge-watch the entire series in five hours.

A weakness of the show would certainly be its title. The name of the show was enough to sway me from watching it as I figured it would be a trite modern-day rendition of the film, “Amadeus”; however, the quality of “Transparent” convinced me that Amazon may be onto something with its original content. The series is more accurately a mesh of HBO’s “Girls” and NBC’s “Smash” if they were actually any good and centered around classical music.

“Mozart in the Jungle” calls into question stereotypes about classical musicians and shows the darker, seedier side of this gifted orchestra. Its ensemble cast with impeccable comedic timing and fast-paced storylines are most definitely the series’ strengths.

The show only grows stronger as it progresses, so while the pilot may only be slightly above-average, keep with it. The next episode will have you hooked. The series’ strongest episodes are episode seven (“You Go To My Head”) and episode 10, the season finale (“Opening Night”). Upon finishing the finale, I found myself googling whether or not the show had been renewed for a second season, which there is still no comment on — though I am confident will be the case.

Rating: 4.5 stars

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