Baz Luhrmann doesn’t pain his visual worlds in dull colours. The famous director is renowned for his big, colourful and theatrical films with stunning visuals, such as Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby. The talented Australian filmmaker’s latest foray was into the world of television, working together with content streaming powerhouse Netflix, for the musical drama series, The Get Down. The show (which premiered the first six episodes of its two part, thirteen-episode season on the service on August 12th 2016) is set in the South Bronx during the late 1970s and showcases the transformation of the hip-hop scene in New York through the eyes of several musically inclined black teenagers who live there.
The premise revolves around a boy named Ezekiel – aka Zeke – (Justice Smith) who finds himself drawn into the burgeoning culture of hip hop quietly growing underneath the radar of the mainstream. However, the show isn’t just about the rhythm and the music, it’s also about the look, the authentic feel, the danger, the gangs and the politics of that era, blending into a kaleidoscope of excitement that palpates through the young cast. GD has proven to be somewhat of a production nightmare for Netflix, with its original budget ballooning to over $120 million, making it the most expensive television show the company has ever produced. For the show to feel more authentic, (with the exception of Will Smith’s son, Jaden Smith), Luhrmann hired unknown actors to play the titular roles. The concluding half of the series is set to air in early 2017.
So far so Luhrmann, but who exactly are the main characters, and what drives them? Firstly, there is the aforementioned Zeke, who is smart and resourceful, and brimming with as yet untapped talent, and determined to make his mark on the world. However, he also holds a deep unrequited love for the beautiful Mylene. Shao (Shameik Moore) is a kid from the streets, who is a bit crazy, unpredictable and enigmatic. He cares for his friend Zeke, but holds a grudge against Mylene, whom he sees as a distraction for Zeke’s talents. Mylene Cruz (Herizen F.Guardiola) is a feisty and tenacious girl with an incredible voice who dreams of leaving the Bronx and purusing her dream of becoming a disco star. She loves Zeke but worries he will never want to leave his home. In addition to the main cast there are several supporting characters, including the legendary Grandmaster Flash (who in real life serves as executive producer for the show) and is played by newcomer Mamoudou Athie.
Now whilst it all sounds very theatrical and exciting, Lurhmann has been known to have a somewhat hit or miss approach to his projects, so anticipation and concern was high for this new ambitious project. How exactly has the show fared, and has it struck enough of a chord with audiences to ensure it will come back to paint our televisions with its bright colours and sounds for a second season, or is it destined to hip hop its way into the horizon, never to be seen again?
Well, for fans of the show, things might be a bit uncertain. Firstly, the absurd production cost has understandably burned Netflix’s fingers, so much that the normally forthcoming company have stayed uncharacteristically quiet about the future of the show. This could be due to the fact that the second half has yet to air, but could also be because critical reviews haven’t been that kind. Some choice critics had harsh things to say about it, such as AA Gill from the Sunday Times, who explained that “nothing I’ve seen recently has made me feel as constantly uncomfortable and occasionally flabbergasted as #GD”, whilst others were more positive but still concerned, such as Willa Paskin from Slate, who said “#GetDown wants to be gritty, but it doesn’t quite know how.”
In terms of review feedback from viewers, things are far more positive, with the show garnering a superb rating of 8.6 out of 10 on IMDB and 4.8 stars out of 5 on Netflix itself. At the end of the day it all comes down to how many people are watching the series, and that – as always – is something that Netflix are keeping to themselves. We think a few factors will come into play on renewal. Firstly, we need to know if the series actually ties itself up after the first season– it could well be that it was only ever intended to play as two parts of a cohesive whole that naturally ends in 2017. If that isn’t the case then the cost of production will have to come down, and Luhrmann will have to step up a bit more to impress the critics, whilst simultaneously keeping audiences happy. No easy feat.
As would be expected from a show locked into Netflix, there are currently no Blu-ray or DVD versions of #GetDown available to buy anywhere. If you want to watch it legally, the only way to do so is to have access to a Netflix account, which is priced at $10, or £7.50 for the basic packages in the US and UK respectively, although the site does normally offer a free month’s trial to newcomers.
How do you feel about a Baz Lurhmann created show featuring the rise of hip hop – an exciting topic from a visionary director, or a misguided avenue entered into by someone who has no real understanding of it? Have you seen the show and enjoyed it – when the second half airs do you think there any changes they need to make? How do you feel about an almost entirely unknown cast in lead roles – do they give the show more authenticity, or would you like to see a few more familiar faces?
As always, we want to hear what our users have to say, so if you have some spare time feel free to pop your thoughts and musings down in the comments section below and connect with other readers on the site. Plus, if you want to know instantly whether your favourite shows will be around to binge on next season then just click the subscribe button! You’ll receive news and updates on whether your selected television shows have been renewed or cancelled, and you’ll receive an automatic email when the exact release date for the second half of the first season of #GD is officially announced by Netflix.