Everything that is wrong with „Mozart in the Jungle“ – Episode 1, PILOT

Of course there is nothing wrong with „Mozart in the Jungle“. It’s a great and funny series with fantastic actors, witty scripts and a theme that is not of your usual run-of-the-mill comedy soap. It is also based on a book which I recommended in the Neue Musikzeitung a while ago, even though readers will recognize little from the true life stories of New York oboist Blair Tindall in the TV version.
Nevertheless, watching the series as a classical musician makes you wonder how much exactly the producers actually know about the real world of classical music. And I don’t mean the sex and the drugs, because these certainly exist in classical music.
And because nitpicking is kind of fun, I present to you an ongoings series of in-depth analysis of the mistakes or at least idiosyncracies that crop up in…

MOZART IN THE JUNGLE

Everything that is wrong in „Mozart in the Jungle“
PILOT

1. Thomas Pembridge (MacDowell) gives a big speech about finishing his engagement with the orchestra to a big hall…without the help of a microphone…and talks extremely softly in a low British growl most of the time. No wonder the audience doesn’t respect him anymore!

2. The new conductor Rodrigo is introduced as a surprise during the concert, instead of during a long-winded press conference at least a year or two in advance (like in reality). And even though he is said to be the biggest prodigy in the world he actually conducts like a complete moron (nothing against the actor Bernal, but pretending to conduct is not his forte).

3. Bruno the old bass player takes his (rather small) double bass with him when leaving the hall instead of leaving it at the hall like every orchestra bass player worth his salt. In addition, he tries to enter a normal New York cab with it, which is frankly impossible considering the size of a bass. No wonder he lets Cynthia take the cab!

4. Cynthia actually has a gig in a Musical scheduled directly after an evening performance with the orchestra (which was also apparently the climax of the season considering a new conductor is announced). So when does this Musical start – at 10 p.m. in the night? Not only that, but Hailey the oboist also plays in the Musical, and she was in the audience of the aforementioned concert! To top things off, Cynthia actually enters the pit in the middle of the piece and nobody seems to mind, whereas in reality she would simply be fired or reprimanded heavily, regardless how sexy she looks. And to anyone who thinks this scene takes place on another day….the scene with the after-concert reception party for Rodrigo takes place directly afterwards!

5. Pembridge at the party seems to have no clue about the future programming plans of Rodrigo – even though he was chief conductor of the orchestra. When did they schedule rehearsals and programming (done usually at least several months if not years in advance) – without him? Even with a new conductor coming up a lot of the concert season is usually already planned, with guest conductors and such….

6. Pembridge seems personally insulted about the recital mistakes that Rodrigo lists to him – even though these mistakes could have happened in every orchestra, even under the best conductors.

7. Not a mistake per se, but look at the time schedule of these crazy urban classical musicians: Cynthia meets up with Pembridge after a long stint in a bar with Hailey, taking place after the Musical gig which took place after the classical orchestra gig. Let’s say the classical gig started at 7:30, so it was finished by 10 pm (the pieces shown are not short). Cynthia rushed to the Musical (Hailey had already apparently left the audience to start in time – so why did she buy the ticket when she knew she couldn’t watch the concert until the end?) which presumably started at 10 p.m. (which is a really weird starting time for a Musical, even on Broadway, as noted above). Let’s say the Musical took only 2 hours, so it was finished by 12 a.m., going to the bar with Hailey and chatting up the waiter took at least 2 more hours, so it must be at least 2 a.m. when Cynthia enters the taxi with Pembridge to give him a blowjob. When Hailey comes home at presumably 2:30 in the morning the house party at her apartment is in full swing, with dozens of bubbling and chatty guests who are completely awake and look like they have just arrived. Nobody looks tired or anything, in fact it seems like the party just started. Hailey seems still fresh enough to change into a party dress – her dedication to the good life is truly impressive! The party also seems to go on for quite a while afterwards. How does Hailey keep awake? No wonder she looks really stupid when playing the oboe in the bragging battle with the flutist. And by the way – which classical musician thinks it is fun to play really difficult stuff while drinking Vodka at 4 a.m. in the morning – after listening to a full concert and playing a full Musical performance the last thing an oboist wants to see is a fucking oboe, man.

8. Ok, New York is the city that never sleeps, but the skyline of the city looks positively well lit at roughly 4:30 a.m. when Hailey sits at the fire exit. And cars whiz by like every second, all office buildings are fully alight even though it must be a Sunday following a Saturday (otherwise the whole partying makes little sense). Even New York isn’t that busy at 4:30 a.m. on a Sunday.

9. The waiter from the bar also makes an appearance at roughly 5 a.m., completely fresh and unexhausted after working the super late night shift at a bar which closes presumably at 4:30 a.m. He proceeds to smoke a joint and immediately makes out with Hailey. That’s stamina for you! All of this is technically not impossible, but if they do that every day they must be mutants or worse.

10. Even if Hailey went to bed directly after making out with dancer guy she must have slept less than 3 hours before visiting the matinee (!) performance of her horny boy student. For that her hangover is actually quite mild, considering she must be still completely pissed after basically drinking a complete bottle of vodka at 4 a.m. in the morning. And she still had a few drinks in her after going to the bar with Cynthia. Technically she must still be completely drunk and stoned, but doesn’t act like it.

11. Cynthia tells Hailey about the audition on the day it takes place to invite her. So how powerful is Cynthia the 2nd cellist in this orchestra? In reality auditions need written applications months in advance, and then only a select few are invited, based on their credentials. How can she simply decide that Hailey may enter the audition on such short notice? This would definitely need more than giving a blowjob to Pembridge – and Pembridge didn’t know about the auditions either! And how is this audition organized so quickly directly after Rodrigo – to everybody’s surprise – announced “changes” in the orchestra? Why do so many excellent and perfectly prepared players turn up just like that only a couple of hours later, the next day? Were they contacted by the X-men?

12. Rodrigo resides over the audition alone with his assistant. Nobody else from the orchestra is present. This is not only not allowed under orchestra union law, it would be like a slap to the face to the whole current oboe section who usually have a say with whom they are going to play with in the future. And also: come on, orchestra auditions taking place on a Sunday? It must be a Sunday, otherwise there would be no posh matinee concert with horny kid.

13. Hailey carves her oboe reed on the shaking passenger bike on the way to the audition. Technically possible, but this wouldn’t be a reed she would use in the audition, as after carving an oboe reed needs a lot of trying out and possibly a long rest in a glass of water.

14. Hailey – after a long, long hard night spent listening, playing, drinking, partying, drinking again, making out, drinking a bottle of Vodka, smoking a joint and 3 hours sleep maximum not only manages to look fresh and cute but also proceeds to play the oboe perfectly without the least preparation. She surely is one of the finest oboe prodigies ever – but why does she have to play shitty Musical gigs? And why is Cynthia for that matter (she already has a respected and well-payed job in a presumably first-rate orchestra, are rents that high in New York?). Will these questions be answered in the next episode?

(MORITZ EGGERT)

Moritz Eggert

Komponist

1 Reaktion

  1. Guess what? I wrote the book and lived the life. Almost every scene and every detail is taken directly from the book. Here we go. The producers are the Coppolas. As in, the creators‘ relatives are Anton and Carmine Coppola. Maybe look them up? Anton, who is very much alive, advised on many scenes and was at the premiere.

    So let’s nitpick. I will respond to your „nitpicking.“

    Everything that is wrong in „Mozart in the Jungle“
    PILOT
    1. Thomas Pembridge (MacDowell) gives a big speech about finishing his engagement with the orchestra to a big hall…without the help of a microphone…and talks extremely softly in a low British growl most of the time. No wonder the audience doesn’t respect him anymore!

    This scene was filmed in the auditorium at SUNY Purchase, which is one pretty much the main recording venue for NYC classical musicians. I have worked there for 30+ years. It is a fine hall. No one would accustomed to speaking to an audience would need a mic there. Conductors address audiences all the time without a mic. Have you ever been to a concert?

    2. The new conductor Rodrigo is introduced as a surprise during the concert, instead of during a long-winded press conference at least a year or two in advance (like in reality). And even though he is said to be the biggest prodigy in the world he actually conducts like a complete moron (nothing against the actor Bernal, but pretending to conduct is not his forte).

    This is not a documentary. It is entertainment. And by the way, in recent years, new music directors have often been last-minute surprise announcements — because the chosen ones suddenly opted for other offers, etc. I have never, ever, seen a press conference to announce a music director choice. Really? Also, he does not at all conduct like a moron. He was trained by some of the finest in the field. I was in the orchestra (and I’ve played — including principal oboe — in six major orchestras, including the NY Phil and SF Symphony. You?) We all wanted him to conduct the rest of the works. He also learned violin damn well, and had the best coaches.

    3. Bruno the old bass player takes his (rather small) double bass with him when leaving the hall instead of leaving it at the hall like every orchestra bass player worth his salt. In addition, he tries to enter a normal New York cab with it, which is frankly impossible considering the size of a bass. No wonder he lets Cynthia take the cab!

    Bass players stuff their basses in cabs every night. Hang out outside Lincoln Center for five minutes sometime. Sheesh. What planet are you from?

    4. Cynthia actually has a gig in a Musical scheduled directly after an evening performance with the orchestra (which was also apparently the climax of the season considering a new conductor is announced). So when does this Musical start – at 10 p.m. in the night? Not only that, but Hailey the oboist also plays in the Musical, and she was in the audience of the aforementioned concert! To top things off, Cynthia actually enters the pit in the middle of the piece and nobody seems to mind, whereas in reality she would simply be fired or reprimanded heavily, regardless how sexy she looks. And to anyone who thinks this scene takes place on another day….the scene with the after-concert reception party for Rodrigo takes place directly afterwards!

    Yes. There’s this thing called a matinee. Here’s a link — dictionary.com. Since you are clearly not someone who goes to concerts, I’ll explain. A matinee is a concert in the afternoon. They are usually on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 2 or 3. At least in NYC, they are sometimes a bit later, and then musicians who play those then go play evening performances at 7 or 8. Again, have you ever actually been to a concert? I did this at least twice a week my entire career. We all do. That’s how we make enough money to pay our rent.

    5. Pembridge at the party seems to have no clue about the future programming plans of Rodrigo – even though he was chief conductor of the orchestra. When did they schedule rehearsals and programming (done usually at least several months if not years in advance) – without him? Even with a new conductor coming up a lot of the concert season is usually already planned, with guest conductors and such….

    It’s a damn TV show, you idiot. You really want to listen to programming conversations? I sat behind Zubin Mehta and his (excellent) advisor on a plane ride where they discussed this and OH GOD was that boring.

    6. Pembridge seems personally insulted about the recital mistakes that Rodrigo lists to him – even though these mistakes could have happened in every orchestra, even under the best conductors.

    Again, it’s entertainment, not a documentary. Most viewers don’t know about orchestra politics. What TF is your point?

    7. Not a mistake per se, but look at the time schedule of these crazy urban classical musicians: Cynthia meets up with Pembridge after a long stint in a bar with Hailey, taking place after the Musical gig which took place after the classical orchestra gig. Let’s say the classical gig started at 7:30, so it was finished by 10 pm (the pieces shown are not short). Cynthia rushed to the Musical (Hailey had already apparently left the audience to start in time – so why did she buy the ticket when she knew she couldn’t watch the concert until the end?) which presumably started at 10 p.m. (which is a really weird starting time for a Musical, even on Broadway, as noted above). Let’s say the Musical took only 2 hours, so it was finished by 12 a.m., going to the bar with Hailey and chatting up the waiter took at least 2 more hours, so it must be at least 2 a.m. when Cynthia enters the taxi with Pembridge to give him a blowjob. When Hailey comes home at presumably 2:30 in the morning the house party at her apartment is in full swing, with dozens of bubbling and chatty guests who are completely awake and look like they have just arrived. Nobody looks tired or anything, in fact it seems like the party just started. Hailey seems still fresh enough to change into a party dress – her dedication to the good life is truly impressive! The party also seems to go on for quite a while afterwards. How does Hailey keep awake? No wonder she looks really stupid when playing the oboe in the bragging battle with the flutist. And by the way – which classical musician thinks it is fun to play really difficult stuff while drinking Vodka at 4 a.m. in the morning – after listening to a full concert and playing a full Musical performance the last thing an oboist wants to see is a fucking oboe, man.

    Again, there is this thing called a matinee. The show was over by 11 or so. They went to a bar. I did this thing so often. We did get together and haven drunken chamber music parties, often. Sorry to burst your bubble.

    There was never a play-off like that, but I thought that was quite brilliant and I hope they market the board game. I cannot tell you the number of times I was at a late-night chamber music party. One of them — 30 years later — led to my being #1 on the SF Symphony sub list while studying journalism (and yes I did) at Stanford University.

    8. Ok, New York is the city that never sleeps, but the skyline of the city looks positively well lit at roughly 4:30 a.m. when Hailey sits at the fire exit. And cars whiz by like every second, all office buildings are fully alight even though it must be a Sunday following a Saturday (otherwise the whole partying makes little sense). Even New York isn’t that busy at 4:30 a.m. on a Sunday.

    You have clearly not spent much time in NY. Good grief. What a ridiculous statement.

    9. The waiter from the bar also makes an appearance at roughly 5 a.m., completely fresh and unexhausted after working the super late night shift at a bar which closes presumably at 4:30 a.m. He proceeds to smoke a joint and immediately makes out with Hailey. That’s stamina for you! All of this is technically not impossible, but if they do that every day they must be mutants or worse.

    First, it’s Joe Allen’s, which usually closes at 1 or so. Also, bars in NYC legally must close at 4, but the 46th St bars (you’ll have to google that restaurant row shit, sorry) would generally close around 1 or a bit after. In my experience, and what would I know, I only played in NYC for 25 years, younger people, which I once was, would show up to party about that time.

    10. Even if Hailey went to bed directly after making out with dancer guy she must have slept less than 3 hours before visiting the matinee (!) performance of her horny boy student. For that her hangover is actually quite mild, considering she must be still completely pissed after basically drinking a complete bottle of vodka at 4 a.m. in the morning. And she still had a few drinks in her after going to the bar with Cynthia. Technically she must still be completely drunk and stoned, but doesn’t act like it.

    I managed to play out a very successful freelance career quite hung over most of the time. I am not sure what your timeline is. But that scene to which you refer is based on a very much real situation of my book. I was hanging on my teeth, but I did it. All of us can do it. That is the result of practicing our asses off.

    11. Cynthia tells Hailey about the audition on the day it takes place to invite her. So how powerful is Cynthia the 2nd cellist in this orchestra? In reality auditions need written applications months in advance, and then only a select few are invited, based on their credentials. How can she simply decide that Hailey may enter the audition on such short notice? This would definitely need more than giving a blowjob to Pembridge – and Pembridge didn’t know about the auditions either! And how is this audition organized so quickly directly after Rodrigo – to everybody’s surprise – announced “changes” in the orchestra? Why do so many excellent and perfectly prepared players turn up just like that only a couple of hours later, the next day? Were they contacted by the X-men?

    First, there is no such thing as a 2nd cello. You clearly know zero about music. But to explain „assistant principal cello“ would eat up time and lose viewers. Yes, this is bullshit. But it’s entertainment, and I found it entertaining. But in your world, you’d rather see poor Hailey poring over International Musician ads for four hours, writing letters, making audition tapes ( another 49 hours) and waiting for a response. Now there’s some good TV.

    12. Rodrigo resides over the audition alone with his assistant. Nobody else from the orchestra is present. This is not only not allowed under orchestra union law, it would be like a slap to the face to the whole current oboe section who usually have a say with whom they are going to play with in the future. And also: come on, orchestra auditions taking place on a Sunday? It must be a Sunday, otherwise there would be no posh matinee concert with horny kid.

    Again, this is entertainment, not a documentary. Do you really want to see the second flute, tuba, and new-hire second violins picking their asses behind the screen for three hours? What network would buy that? The turkey sandwich thing was absolutely hilarious.

    13. Hailey carves her oboe reed on the shaking passenger bike on the way to the audition. Technically possible, but this wouldn’t be a reed she would use in the audition, as after carving an oboe reed needs a lot of trying out and possibly a long rest in a glass of water.

    Oh really? WTF would you know? I’ve done it in a taxi. Often. And that was damn brilliant on the director’s part. Really, do you even know how to read music??? Do you have ANY idea what went into making that scene?

    14. Hailey – after a long, long hard night spent listening, playing, drinking, partying, drinking again, making out, drinking a bottle of Vodka, smoking a joint and 3 hours sleep maximum not only manages to look fresh and cute but also proceeds to play the oboe perfectly without the least preparation. She surely is one of the finest oboe prodigies ever – but why does she have to play shitty Musical gigs? And why is Cynthia for that matter (she already has a respected and well-payed job in a presumably first-rate orchestra, are rents that high in New York?). Will these questions be answered in the next episode?

    Well, I wrote the goddam book, I did all that, and then I made a goddam TV series. You?

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