Take 1970’s New York, Disco and fashion, layer it with a coming of age story, set to a score that makes you want to move and you’ll get the intrinsically beautiful mess that is Netflix’s latest original series, The Get Down.
Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down tells the story of New York City at the brink of collapse. However, it was during those troubled times that Hip-Hop was born and that story is told through the lives of Shaolin Fantastic (Shameik Moore), Mylene Cruz (Herizen Guardiola), The Kipling brothers – Dizzee (Jaden Smith), Ra-Ra (Skylan Brooks) and Boo Boo (Tremaine Brown Jr.), and the beat that holds the line together, the wordsmith, Ezekiel “Books” Figuero (Justice Smith).
The 92 minute long pilot is an interesting affair that tries to mix together the realities of life in the 70s, romance and music in a manner that keeps you watching and moving to the beat, but at the same time, it feels a little unwieldy with too many plot points moving around and sequences that have more style than form. Funny enough, it’s this very mess that adds to the narrative and is reflective of the chaos in the Bronx, where Graffiti was just as much criminal as it was art and an outlet for expression.
The Get Down is held together by Ezekiel, who’s torn between chasing after his girl, Mylene, and breaking out to finally understanding that he has the potential to achieve much more with his talent. Shaolin Fantastic, is ready to prove that his kung fu is strong and and sees the force in Smith, while Mylene wants to break out on her own and willing to sacrifice everything to achieve her dream of being a singer. With Shaolin and Mylene pulling in opposite directions, Ezekiel is vital in driving the show forward along it’s own meandering way.
Shot partly on location in the Bronx, The Get Down was also filmed across the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn and soundstages in Glendale, Queens where hallmarks of the time period – including a Chelsea Hotel room, the exterior wall and fire escape of a tenement building, and a disco nightclub were reconstructed. To stay true to the authenticity of the period, the cast were put through a 1970s boot camp to teach them how to DJ, hold a microphone and do fancy footwork of the era.
Some of the DJing and scratching you hear in the show was created by Grandmaster Flash, one of the pioneers of hip-hop DJing and mixing, and who is also the Associate Producer of The Get Down. And fans of dance should get their fill as the dance choreography in the show is created by Rich and Tone who also choreographed for artists such as Madonna, Chris Brown, Jennifer Lopez, Usher, Gwen Stefani, Kylie Minogue, Pink and Missy Elliott.
The Get Down has no lack of story–It might even have too much in fact with what looks like two competing plot points. But it somehow manages to slip into a groove and slides on into a beat that you’ll want to keep on going.
Season 1 of The Get Down will be split into two parts – Part one, comprising of six episodes, will be available for streaming for all Netflix members in Singapore on Friday, 12 August 2016, 15:00. Part two, will debut in 2017.