So here at Duffy's Brew, we recognize there's more to life than beer and great hair. (No, really!) There's also... Netflix.
We loves us some Netflix, so we decided to throw in a blog every now and then talking about some of our favorite shows, or at least the ones causing the most debate around the office. And there's almost certainly no show causing more debate than what this humble Duffy's Man thinks is the most sadly overlooked original on the pseduo-network:
If you don't even recognize the name, that's not surprising. It had the supreme bad luck to debut right after Stranger Things became a gigantic pop-culture phenomenon, and basically got buried. The logo and summary also didn't do too much to bring attention to itself, unless (like me) you're automatically drawn to stuff with a 70s vibe. They've given it a better logo since then, but it's still going somewhat unnoticed.
So today, we'll leave out most of the shameless plugs for our own product (buyDuffysBrewtoday!) and just talk TV instead.
The Low Down Of The Get Down
So what's The Get Down about?
It's about hip-hop. It's about disco. It's about the late 70s. It's about culture shifts. It's about the Bronx. It's about socio-racial politics. It's about gangs. It's about drugs. It's about gigantic hair. It's about conflicting loyalties. It's about finding yourself via music.
The Get Down centers on a group of youths -as well as their elders- living in the Bronx, circa 1977, when disco was queen and hip-hop kings were being born in back alleys.
The opening episode sets the scene: Ezekiel "Zeke" Figuero is a brilliant but insecure high school senior, full of potential but lacking a path. He happens to meet local urban legend Shaolin Fantastic, the protege and heir-presumptive of hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash. Discovering a talent for freestyling and DJing, Zeke and Shaolin plot to become the next big thing, along with several of their friends.
At the same time, Zeke's would-be girlfriend Mylene Cruz dreams of becoming the next Donna Summer-style Disco Queen, along with her own friends. With the help of her uncle, "Papa Fuerte" Cruz -the boss of the Bronx- she meets a down-and-out and thoroughly drug-addled record producer who promises the stars but may not deliver.
And that's just for starters. The massive cast and their inter-relationships rival A Game Of Thrones for its complexity, all the political and social struggles of Westeros crammed into a small island which is seen as the dumping ground for the rest of the Boroughs. Gangs, drug deals, political graft, and more are all up for grabs.
Changing Sides While The Sides Keep Changing
Beyond the terrific music - and there is lots and lots and LOTS of amazing music - the plotlines of The Get Down almost entirely revolve around divided loyalties.
Every character is being pulled in multiple directions. Does Zeke stay more true to Shaolin or to Mylene? Are his loyalties to his family, his neighborhood, or his 'crew'? Is Mylene willing to betray her devout preacher father to pursue a career in a highly hedonistic field? Is Papa Fuerte more loyal to his people or to himself?
It presents the characters with tough choices and gives them no easy answers. The drama and excitement come from how they deal with them, often in surprising ways.
A Romantic Look At The Unromantic (Or Vice-Versa?)
Probably the most interesting thing about The Get Down is its willingness to deflate the mythos of the 70s music scene. Disco, cocaine, and cartels are all linked and far sleazier than most depictions, old or new. The hip-hop scene is depicted as a slight evolutionary improvement on the previous violent gang-warlords. Now entertainment, rather than firepower, marks the top dogs - but violence is always lurking close by.
How historically accurate is it? That's up for debate among those who've seen it. After all, even its own press materials refer to it as "mythic." However, the show is exec-produced and\or consulted on by the actual Grandmaster Flash, along with Nas and Kurtis Blow.
It certainly feels truthy, even if it may not be entirely facty, so to speak.
A Gold-Plated Diamond In The Rough
The Get Down isn't totally perfect. The choice to use an almost entirely unknown cast was a ballsy one, and the acting occasionally suffers for it. Also, the breakneck pace of the episodes can be either exhausting or exhilarating. Like the whirlwind that was the time period, each episode rarely pauses or slows down, turning almost kaleidoscopic at points.
But for those with an interest in the 70s, an interest in social politics, or a love of the era's music, The Get Down has many treasures to be found and desperately deserves to be more widely seen.