Story By: G. H. HARDING
Matthew McConaughey

TRUE DETECTIVE --- Last night was the start of the much-anticipated second season of HBO‘s True Detective. I loved and was constantly fascinated by Season One. The music, the visuals, the story, and the absolutely brilliant acting of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson made for some remarkable small-screen entertainment.

One columnist posited that Season One was such a success, and so quickly, that rumors started up almost immediately about whether Season Two could compete. Well, it did—and it didn’t.

The first episode of any series can be tough. Introducing the main characters (here, four), and weaving in the right cohesive narrative isn't always easy and doesn’t always happen quick.

Here we had Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams, and Taylor Kitsch. It took time–almost the whole episode—but in the last five minutes, which featured a sit-down between Farrell and Vaughn‘s characters and a whirlwind motorcycle ride with Kitsch and McAdams seemingly getting thrown out of a casino, worked brilliantly. A crime was committed after bringing the three together, with the Vaughn character soon to follow.

Rachel McAdams
The episode borrowed certain elements from Season One; T Bone Burnett‘s haunting theme music; atmospheric lighting; and some brilliant camera work. Director Cary Joji Fukunaga was jettisoned from Season Two. Here, Justin Linn (who has done all the Fast and Furious films) signed on for the show. Honestly, I felt that addition didn’t bring all that much to the proceedings, although I’ll admit that Kitsch’s episode-ending cycle-ride was fairly breathtaking. Rachel McAdams and Vince Vaughn, who have together done enough Rom-Com epics for their careers to date, were brilliant. McAdams surprised me with her range, and set up a thousand questions about her character. Vaughn, a personal favorite, was top notch as the burgeoning bad guy.

Farrell, always good, continued in his ne’er-do-well role as a conflicted (up to his eyeballs) cop. Apparently, he and Vaughn share some secrets that will no doubt be elaborated upon.

Writer Nic Pizzolatto has evolved his scriptwriting from several things in Season One, where a big complaint was that he didn’t create any viable female roles. The McAdams role works terrifically well, though, and there are several minor femme-roles, too.

Here, the locale is Los Angeles in a fictional town called Vinzi, with tons of aerial shots—no doubt Linn’s passion from the Fast and Furious series.

Believe me, it was frustrating to watch almost three-quarters of this episode before it all came together, as memories of Season One lurked in my mind. But now I’m all in. Will it reach the furor created by its predecessor? Could be, could be—after all, the last five minutes of this first episode from the new season was miraculous.

WENNER’S FOLLY --- Sixteen of the forty-two members of the nominating committee for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have been dismissed. Most or all of them have been there a long time, and represent the bloc of voters who still lobby for early rock and R&B pioneers who’ve remained overlooked or purposely dismissed out of hand for induction.

Also jettisoned this past week were: famed publicist Bob Merlis; record exec and R&B music specialist Joe McEwen; and former Rolling Stone editor Joe Levy. And so where does that leave writer David Fricke, who was also let go by Rolling Stone last week? (Though public uproar prompted the magazine to stated that Mr. Fricke will remain a writer for them, albeit on a freelance basis.)

Jann Wenner, who runs the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, reportedly wanted to cut the eligibility time down from twenty-five to twenty years. The reason was to sell off the Hall of Fame‘s induction ceremony as a TV show to HBO. Wenner needed stars, not old or dead actual founders of rock—in other words, he wants a younger demographic.

Replacing nominators with younger people who have no attachment or feel for rock origins, and shortening the chronological time cycle of eligibility means Wenner can continue to skip over acts he doesn’t like and can move on to more recent stars. Face it: With Atlantic Records’ late founder Ahmet Ertegun (who started the whole thing with Wenner), it’s quite literally turned into a Trump-like vanity exercise for Wenner.

Many seminal rock and pop artists who still remain left out of the Hall may now never be inducted. J. Geils Band and Peter Wolf; Chicago; The Moody Blues; and Carly Simon are, amazingly, still not in the Hall. I also wonder what that means for somewhat newer acts like Bon Jovi; Sting; Nile Rodgers; and Chic. Also, what about The Monkees and Todd Rundgren? When are these great pieces of the rock landscape going to receiving their recognition?

Honestly, I had the opportunity to join the fracas years back. When I looked at how things were shaping up, though, I decided I wanted no part of it. This new move is a resoundingly crass insult (and I say that loud and proud) to the major bands of yesterday who have never made it into what clearly remains—as Monkees singer/drummer Micky Dolenz has called it—“a club.” Whatever Wenner thinks he’s doing for the fine history and tradition of this thing called rock ‘n roll remains a puzzling and rotten mystery to me—and I’m sure that many others feel the same.

James Gandolfini

CLOSING NOTES --- Finally got to watch James Gandolfini‘s final movie, The Drop, over the weekend. Written by Dennis Lehane, it was a nifty little story of a small bar and its former owner, Gandolfini, looking for one last score. A pretty tremendous cast for a smaller movie; it lagged a bit, but Gandolfini’s performance was exquisite. I always loved his work, especially in The Castle with Robert Redford, and certainly as tormented Mob boss Tony in The Sopranos. This final film of his is a true find, for sure. What a loss . . .

Speaking of loss, we learned over the weekend that the great Phil Austin (a.k.a., the voice behind “Nick Danger,” admittedly still one of the most beloved and accessible of characters to spring from the great subversive comedy troupe, The Firesign Theatre) passed away at the age of 74. Austin had been battling cancer, according to his friend and fellow Firesign Theatre co-founder David Ossman. Ossman, together with his fellow still-living Firesign Theatre member Philip Proctor, placed very affectionate posts about Mr. Austin, the one member of the group who was perhaps tapped most directly into the realm of an acting professional. He is now the second member of the album-oriented counter cultural group to have passed. (Peter Bergman was the first to pass away back in 2012.) Austin is survived by his wife, Oona, and a sister.

In a time when vinyl albums are again being sold in mainstream markets, far outnumbering units sold by CD, and when “radio” has lost any truly satiric edge or bite in place of political platitudes predominantly from the Right Wing listener, the work that Phil Austin did with his fellow members in the Firesign Theatre should be available again in the LP format. Let’s hope that a group even admired over the years by self-appointed “King of All Media” Howard Stern himself will again be re-assessed and enjoyed by old and young listeners alike. There will never again be a group like the Firesign Theatre—without all four still together, the collective mind of the improv group will never again exist in the same way—but again, the recordings remain . . . do yourself a favor, and check them out.

Steve Miller at the Postgame Concert after the Mets game on Saturday, June 27? Just amazing. Last time I caught him was with Marty Stuart at The Met . . .

Kim Gordon‘s art installation (Design Office: The City Is a Garden) is at the 303 Gallery (507 West 24th Street, NYC) through July 25. Via Sonic Youth, her work is great!

Steven Spielberg

And lastly, we have a report from one of our column’s trusted contact about the 40th anniversary screening yesterday of the still-gripping Steven Spielberg film of Peter Benchley‘s once-bestseller Jaws. Our source was one of at least 100 viewers in a packed theatre out in the Stony Brook section of Long Island. “I was glad to have ordered tickets online the night before,” our source says “because when we got to the theater a full hour before the 2pm screening, there were already about 20 people standing in line.” The theater was soon a packed house, with all but five or six seats left unused. Suffice to say, it’s a marvelous thing to hear about a nearly sold-out crowd going to see Spielberg’s 1975 film classic in the same movie house running Jurassic World. “When the film started,” according to our source, “and throughout nearly the entire picture, people were quiet and attentive and totally engrossed by the film.” And what about at the end of the film, when the Great White shark is blown up when a tank of compressed air jammed in its mouth is exploded by the last rifle bullet shot by Chief Brody (the late great Roy Scheider)? “The entire audience hooted and applauded,” our source tells us. “And then again, as the film’s end credits began, everyone clapped again in total appreciation. It was truly a great thing to see.”

If you didn’t get to see Jaws on the big screen yesterday, don’t worry—two encore screenings of the trailblazing blockbuster classic will be shown again on 500 movie screens nationwide. I’m going to try to go!