Jeff Jensen
January 07, 2015 AT 05:00 AM EST

Mozart in the Jungle

TV Show
Current Status
In Season
run date
Gael García Bernal, Malcolm McDowell, Bernadette Peters

We gave it a B-

The latest talent-rich, lo-fi binge from Amazon Studios falls far short of the high notes hit by the upstart TV player’s sublime dramedy Transparent, but it’s pleasing enough to hold you. Gael García Bernal charms as Rodrigo, a charismatic conductor with a rock-star image and a poet’s soul recruited to recharge the New York Symphony. His platonic (for now?) relationship with aspiring oboist Hailey (Lola Kirke), whom he hires as an assistant, is endearing, and by the standout seventh episode, you’ll be hooked on their rapport and keen to see how they change each other over time.

Before then, though, faith will be tested. Mozart is adapted from a 2005 memoir of the same name, but initially you wonder if the producers stopped reading after the book’s Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music subtitle. The show seems to think the mere idea of highbrow symphony pros humping, toking, and generally being lowbrow is, like, irreverently hilarious! It gets stale quickly. Early eps focus on Rodrigo’s rivalry with the maestro (Malcolm McDowell) he’s replaced, but it feels forced and ultimately fizzles. Relationships and conflicts are suggested, tested, then fade away, as if the writers lost interest or didn’t trust them. I was ready to give up after some lame Cops Are A–holes! business in episode 6, but the seventh episode, a minor-key Fellini homage, won me back, thanks to inspired direction from Roman Coppola and dream-logic storytelling that digs deeper into the characters. Here, finally, Mozart makes some beautiful music. Hopefully it can carry the tune forward. B-

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