More People Did These Things Than Watched Rock Dudes Snort Blow in HBO's Vinyl Premiere

Vinyl’s Richie Finestra getting mad zooted off blow
Vinyl’s Richie Finestra getting mad zooted off blow

HBO’s Vinyl—the romanticization of my literal nightmare of rock dudes snorting coke and yammering about the industry while you, a woman, sit there silently stewing—didn’t have a great debut on the Nielsen charts!


Sunday’s two-hour premiere—written by The Sopranos’s Terence Winter and Breaking Bad’s George Mastras—was directed by none other than Martin Scorsese, but even that big-name draw didn’t entice viewers to sit through it. Variety TV critic Mo Ryan broke down the viewer numbers for a few of HBO’s series debuts, and while it’s not quite a bloodbath, it is certainly not great.

A little refresher: Tremé was David Simon’s series about post-Katrina New Orleans, and a follow-up to The Wire; Luck was a show about horseracing that was canceled after one season because the horses kept dying; Newsroom was Aaron Sorkin’s romanticized look into the inner workings of broadcast journalism; The Leftovers is a series about people vanishing into thin air; and True Detective’s first season was about philosophy and God and flat circles and occult sacrifice and shit.

So in the scheme of things, 1970s rock music is theoretically a pretty populist premise; why did its premiere tank so thoroughly (particularly when its ad campaign included taking over the websites of at least two fairly high profile publications, New York Magazine and Vice’s Noisey vertical)? My guess is that the trailers, which have been airing for months, were perhaps a bit of a turn-off, as they mostly seemed to depict... rock dudes huffing rails and seeming to go into cardiopulmonary seizures before metaphorically popping a huge woody. (As punk icon Richard Hell wrote in his excellent review: “Cocaine is not like getting a cattle prod up your butt. Everybody knows that. Cocaine is sweet. A warm smile would suffice.”)

What could all of those potential viewers have been doing? Really, almost anything!

Things More People Did Than Watch HBO’s Vinyl Premiere: An Index

Live in Charlotte, North Carolina (pop. 809,958)

Bought the Fifty Shades of Grey Soundtrack in the US and the UK in 2015 (863,000)


Worked as State and Local Law Enforcement in 2008 (765,000)

Stopped voting in the English General Election (800,000)

Were children treated for a sports-related injury last year (775,000)

Lived in the US in 1776 (2.1 Million)

Used cocaine in 2012 (Between 14-21 million globally)

Can’t wait for the rest of the season!

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Image via screenshot/HBO.



I love rock. The 60s and 70s had the best music, IMO. But I couldn’t make it through this show. The pilot was terrible. Almost every single character was completely unlikable. I didn’t give a fuck what happened to anyone. When it seemed like the main character might have died, I was like “Oh, that would be a nice twist that would maybe actually save this show.” The Led Zeppelin plotline was one of the stupidest things I’ve seen on TV in awhile.

I think that it would have been a much better show, actually, if it had been done on a smaller budget with less egos attached to it.