Wednesday, December 18, 2019

REVIEW: 'Soundtrack' - Nellie and Sam Feel Unlucky in Love and Their Artistic Careers in 'Track 1: Nellie and Sam'

Netflix's Soundtrack - Episode 1.01 "Track 1: Nellie and Sam"

As fateful connection finds its footing, Nellie faces an uncertain future and Sam attempts to make peace with his past.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Netflix's Soundtrack.

"Track 1: Nellie and Sam" was written by Joshua Safran and directed by Jesse Peretz

This premiere presents a small world of artists and dreamers. In Los Angeles, everyone is seemingly chasing after some profound dream hoping to make it as an artist. However, the audience may also be trying to figure out how all of these characters are actually connected to one another. It feels very reminiscent of This Is Us in that regard. The premiere even ends with the reveal that Nellie's entire storyline has been happening eight years in the past. She is Sam's wife and Barry's mother who has tragically died. That sets a current path forward where the audience may be sad to learn that all of this ends in tragedy for her. That certainly provides a greater sense of compassion and importance to her side of things. Before that reveal, she truly does come across as a woman unlucky in love. The world may actively be conspiring against her because it seems destined that she falls into the same pattern over and over again. Yes, the show insists her story is one of resilience and strength. She pushes back against the boyfriend who dumped her after his band started getting commercial success. But that also feels wrapped up in the unique stylistic flourishes evident in this show. On numerous occasions, the characters will lip sync along to songs in the hopes of using that particular music to express how it is also connected to their lives. It's not the actors performing covers of these songs. Nor is it the show creating original material. Instead, it is fairly recognizable songs that any random person could sing along to in a vibrant and meaningful way. It's just unclear how much of those fantasy sequences actually plays out in the characters' real lives. Nellie performing to Sia's "Elastic Heart" right away showcases how men have continually hurt her and she is trying to overcome that as her most daunting personal obstacle. Meanwhile, Sam sings along to Brandon Flowers' "Between Me and You" to mostly showcase the rut he is in. However, the later mash-up of Demi Lovato's "Sorry Not Sorry" and Imagine Dragons' "Believer" comes across as actual actions happening in those circumstances. The audience perceives it through these musical numbers. In reality though, Nellie screams at her ex-boyfriend after his concert while Sam lashes out at his cousin for the mistake that could possibly lead to him losing custody of his son. Those are resonant actions that certainly shape key moments in their specific character acts. There is a sense of artificiality to it though. It feels like a stunt. It's one that is highly entertaining. That can be enthralling enough. The way the music is incorporated though has to be very delicate because it could easily allow the show to go through the motions of character development without really earning it. It's actually quite powerful to watch as Sam views Nat King Cole's "Smile" as the song that perfectly describes how he is feeling about getting fired. He wants to trash his boss' office. He doesn't actually do any of that. Instead, he just has to take it in order to avoid any significant consequences that would destroy his life even further. He may still have a lot of uncertainty to contend with. However, the show fundamentally wants to be a love story. It just showcases how that can come at different times and in numerous different ways. At one point, Sam says that he is content already having experienced his one great love. He views that as enough. He found it and got to enjoy it for awhile. Others say that is too limiting for his life. He deserves to prioritize his dreams at the moment too. That is also a significant theme throughout these stories. Nellie and Sam feel like they are standing on the sidelines instead of actually committing to the creativity bursting within them. It's teased that Nellie eventually gets there. With that end date set, it could be limiting to the storytelling possibilities. It's also clear that Jenna Dewan's Joanna will continually weave in and out of the lives of these characters. She will continue to pop up reflecting some kind of importance. She may be Sam's next great love story. She too is positioned as a dreamer like Nellie who yearns for that passionate romantic connection immediately. Both Joanna and Nellie may have gotten that with Sam. They are both lucky. The show just feels the burden of featuring the separation of time in order to explore the importance of both of these relationships. Right now, it's just critical to see the flames ignited and potentially burning passionately.