Hey, Netflix just launched the latest installment in one of its most critically acclaimed series on Friday. Did you miss it? Probably. While the first part of 'The Get Down' got modest media attention, this second launch has been virtually ignored by every major media outlet in the lead-up to its premiere. And when I launched my Netflix app, I had to search for the show to find it ... and I watched the first half. So why is no one -- including Netflix, perhaps -- talking about 'The Get Down'?
Co-created by Baz Lurhmann, with Stephen Adly Guirgis, and with producers including Nas and Shawn Ryan ('The Shield'), the show has a top-notch pedigree and mostly positive critical reviews. Perhaps more importantly, it touches on the pioneers of hip-hop, one of the most influential and popular musical styles ever created. Is it a problem with the subject matter, which has had a rocky road into mainstream acceptance?
'The Get Down' used Ed Piskor's Eisner-winning graphic novel series 'Hip Hop Family Tree' as its primary resource for the era, alongside actual luminaries from the birth of the genre, because there have not been a lot of books written about the birth of hip-hop. 'Hip Hop Family Tree' launched to critical acclaim in 2013 and was one of the first serious historic explorations of the early days of the hip-hop movement in the 1970s and early 1980s. To date, this is still an area of musical history that is largely misunderstood and misrepresented as steeped in gang culture and violence.
'The Get Down' drops viewers right into the heart of it all, showing both the groundbreaking excitement of a new musical force, and the poverty and dangerous environment in which it was forged. It may not be a pretty story at all times, but it's an important story well executed. If this were a film, that description would sound like Oscar fodder. So why does no one seem to care?
Music biopics get tons of attention from the media because they tap into something people are already obsessed with. Here's a story featuring the likes of Grandmaster Flash and DJ Kool Herc among its cast of characters, two of the most important figures in the birth of the genre. It would make sense that fans of hip-hop music would be interested in exploring its roots.
The easy answer is to say because it's a show with a primarily black cast dealing with so-called urban music, but so is 'Empire,' and that show gets plenty of attention. Both shows feature exciting musical numbers, criminal elements and plenty of danger for their primary cast members. The biggest difference is the era and the amount of wealth. So that's not the problem.
Reports came out before its initial premiere over this past summer that production had spiraled over budget. There were constant delays and concerns that the show was becoming a problem for Netflix. At the time, though, the streaming service indicated they were fully in support of Lurhmann and his vision. So where's the support now that the concluding chapters are available? Where are the marketing materials promoting the launch? Where is the flurry of interviews with the cast, including gossip darling Jaden Smith?
Is it possible it simply comes down to numbers? Netflix usually drop an entire season at once, but not so with 'The Get Down.' Instead, viewers got Part I of Season 1 with a six-episode premiere on August 12, 2016. According to co-created Guirgis in an interview with Vulture https://www.vulture.com/2016/08/get-down-netflix-premieres-half-of-season-one.html"> in August, it was about getting something on the air sooner rather than later after two-and-a-half years and $120 million (Netflix's most expensive series investment to date) invested.
Now, its eight months later and the final six episodes are only five episodes and the show is being quietly premiered after boisterous marketing fanfares for both 'Grace & Frankie' Season 3 on March 24 and '13 Reasons Why' on March 31. Perhaps it didn't perform as well as Netflix would have liked and this is the equivalent of a broadcast network dumping the last four episodes of a series on a Saturday night just to say they aired it.
Instead of wasting money on a disappointment, double your marketing budget on something that is working. Offset any losses here by increasing viewership (and subscribers) with all that '13 Reasons Why' buzz, and focus on Season 2 of 'Stranger Things.'
And perhaps it's the same for the media outlets. Maybe traffic and revenue from stories about 'The Get Down' were just underperforming. That's why much of the noise out there is about the same few shows despite the fact there are no size constraints or limits on the Internet. Even in an era when there is more quality original programming available than any one person could possibly watch, it's hard to keep up with what's out there and worth your time.
For the record, 'The Get Down' is very much worth your time. It features some great performances, a lot of enthusiastic musical numbers and a fascinating -- if sometimes fantastical -- exploration of a largely unknown era in musical history. It's soapy and dramatic and exciting, and a lot of fun. It's just a shame no one is really talking about it.