The new Netflix actuality present Westside is an uneven, jumbled, sometimes alluring Frankenstein of a present, a mishmash of The Hills-style actuality TV drama, a Behind the Music-style making-of documentary, and a traditional narrative musical. That mixture incessantly turns into one thing incoherent, a skidding, lurching story that goals for each grit and gloss and finally ends up wanting like a simulacrum of each. Yet Westside is curiously fascinating as a largely failed experiment that, very briefly, coalesces into one thing that all of a sudden actually works.
The greatest problem with Westside is that its constituent items are essentially at odds with each other. As a actuality present, the premise of the collection is that it gives a casual, unvarnished take a look at what occurs within the lives of 9 wannabe musicians in L.A. They are a uniformly stunning bunch of individuals with names like Arika G. and Pia (Toscano) and Taz (Zavala), and so they’ve been introduced collectively by a producer, Sean Patrick Murray, who needs them to work collectively on staging a reside present that may showcase their abilities. Sean is ideally positioned for peak actuality drama: He’s ostensibly the boss and the decision-maker, however he’s additionally the group’s peer, somebody who will probably be performing as a musician on this reside present, too. His authority is essential to serving to everybody work collectively. It’s additionally tenuous and ill-defined.
The gang has precisely the form of issues, backstories, and interpersonal spats you’d count on in a actuality present about musicians that appears like an Instagram filter made flesh. After the gang plans to carry out at an off-the-cuff open mic night time, Austin (Kolbe) exhibits up along with his entire three-piece band. James (Byous) is livid, feeling like he’s been proven up and outgunned, and threatens to drag out of the entire thing. Later, James accuses Austin of breaking the principles throughout a monologue workshop. All of it’s garden-variety petty insecurity, making good on the fact TV style’s promise to show all molehills into mountains.
But then, reduce in and amongst the acquainted rhythms of squabbling and tearful private accounts of previous tragedies, Westside throws in what are basically music movies, extremely produced tune sequences with their very own distinct designs and settings. One second we’re watching Arika discuss along with her agent about not eager to take teeny-bopper roles in CW exhibits (Arika, rethink!), and the subsequent, we’re catapulted right into a music video by which Arika sings about being a fantastic lady.
From a distance, this mixture looks like it ought to work as any musical would: We see battle, we see character development, after which we break for a tune that extends these moments of revelation. In a typical scripted musical construction, the tune pushes the story ahead or offers us perception into plot; it’s a bit of the narrative simply as a lot because the dialogue breaks. But Westside is simply scripted sufficient to be clearly produced (à la The Hills or Kardashians), whereas additionally not being scripted sufficient to construct the songs into its story. Instead of being illuminating or considerate items of this collection, the songs find yourself wanting like essentially the most purely promotional items of a present already meant to advertise its stars’ careers. The songs flip Westside into one thing like an elaborate advert for itself. The advert’s not particularly interesting, both: The first massive group musical quantity, “We Are the Ones,” seems like a tune written by Big Data, a bit of music aimed toward an ideal algorithmic common.
It’s a disgrace that Westside can’t determine how knit its songs along with its narrative in any significant method, as a result of it would present the extra consideration and character improvement a lot of the solid so desperately wants. Much of the present’s private drama comes from James, whose dramatic descent into dependancy is given the overwhelming edit as “most attention-grabbing factor taking place on this collection,” full with repeated pictures of him pouring beer into his throat that mix voyeurism with twisted hagiography. Other than James, although, most narratives skip by the highlights and lowlights of the solid members’ lives so quickly and with such split-second, scene-shifting cuts that it’s onerous to comply with whose ache is whose. Sean’s getting married! Palm bushes, dance ground, James staggering, Sean’s in love, extra palm bushes, lens flare, Taz’s mother frying meals, Pia FaceTiming her husband, again to Sean’s marriage ceremony, 20 seconds of a tune by Lexi (Alexandra Kay), after which again to James staggering — Westside guarantees that these 9 persons are worthy of our consideration, nevertheless it doesn’t belief its viewers to have the eye span to observe any one in all them for greater than 90 seconds at a time, until they’re singing a tune that has nothing to do with the “story.”
One results of Westside’s frenetic enhancing is that its episodes have little to no construction, and solely the barest sense of an arc undergirding the entire season. At some level late within the first episode, with little or no fanfare or formality, Sean introduces the concept of a “reside present” that would be the capstone of this story. But the define of that present is imprecise, the challenges to staging it are by no means made clear, and the group’s duties from one episode to the subsequent arrive within the amorphous type of mumbled directions like “let’s simply attempt to get it collectively” and “simply inform your fact.” There’s virtually no method of realizing when something is going down relative to anything, or how a lot time is passing, or what’s going to occur within the instant future. If it borrows from something, Westside most intently resembles the cohort of Netflix dramas by which tales slosh from one episode to the subsequent with no differentiating boundaries. After watching the primary two of the 4 episodes supplied for overview, I used to be prepared to write down the showcase completely.
But then, in episode three, Westside does one thing completely different. The 9 musicians collect collectively in a songwriting workshop, with the goal of leaving that day with not less than one brand-new, collectively written tune. It begins as most of Westside’s workouts do, with a direct name for them to mine all of their deepest, most upsetting experiences as musical fodder — which, truthful sufficient. Rather than resuming its typical jittery tempo by 9 inconsistently considerate tales, although, Westside really stays with this workshop expertise. It follows the group by the choice to go along with a particular chord development, the method of every individual listening to these chords and taking a stab at particular person verses, after which ends with an virtually transcendent sequence the place all of them half-improv the tune collectively, their faces suffused with the sensation of giddy glory that typically occurs when a bunch of individuals making music collectively briefly suggestions over into nirvana.
Even in that sequence, although, Westside continues to be its drama-mining self. The chord development comes from Austin, who’s none too humble about his skills as essentially the most easy songwriter of the bunch. The sequence ends with Taz burning out when it’s her flip to take the lyrical reins; she leaves in a moody and dramatic cloud, chased by digicam folks far sufficient away to make her exit appear convincingly unplanned. In this brief bit of 1 episode, Westside proves that there’s one thing about its patchwork DNA that may really cohere into one thing compulsively watchable.
Without having seen the entire season, there’s no method of realizing whether or not this little bit of the collection will win out, or whether or not it’s a brief, pretty blip in an in any other case irritating expertise. But Westside will get credit score for attempting a brand new factor, for its stab at being greater than a cookie-cutter reproduction of American Idol or MTV’s Real World. I nonetheless don’t know if the trouble was price it, however I’m not mad at it for having made the try.
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