This big-budget Netflix original series, starring Shameik Moore, Justice Smith and Jaden Smith, focuses on the birth and infancy of Hip Hop and shows us its New York roots, and influences from Disco, among other musical genres. The Get Down is a culturally diverse tale of young love, incorporating music, politics, family and religion.
I have a few qualms about the show, I’ll get them off my chest first before I get into what I enjoyed. First of all, I thought some of the acting on the show could have been more convincing and came across a bit cliché and cringe-y at times. Also, the gangs in the show were not scary at all; the kids looked no older than ten, and definitely were not intimidating , especially considering the ages of the characters they were supposed to be terrorising.
In addition to this, the whole ‘my dream is to be a singer but my over-bearing, religious parents won’t let me’ storyline is very played out. We’ve seen this so many times. I think, since the show is about the birth of Hip Hop, the show should perhaps have followed an aspiring rapper in a world unfamiliar with Hip Hop. Now that would be original and I can’t recall seeing a movie about this before.
Additionally, there was so much hype surrounding Jaden Smith’s participation in the show, but in actuality, his role was fairly small. Often, he would be the only character missing at pivotal points of the series as he’d be off doing his own thing, which I found strange. I was hoping he would be able to show some growth as an actor and diversify his image, but it felt like he was just playing himself.
Ok, so yes, there were a lot of negatives about the show, but let’s talk about some of the positives now. It’s great to see Netflix branching out and trying something new with this series. It is unlike anything they have tried before and it is giving a show, which, if broadcast on network television, may have had a very specifically targeted audience. The show is given a huge platform to expose and educate people, who may not usually opt to watch such a culturally diverse show, a chance to try something new. Is it the best content? That’s questionable, but it’s a step in the right direction to creating new original content showing different faces and stories to the wider public, to represent a wider range of people than what we usually see in entertainment.
Another thing I love about the show is the music, especially how they incorporate both 70’s soul, R&B and disco, along with new original music by current artists such as Michael Kiwanuka, Miguel and Christina Aguilera, but in the vain of the genres of the time. The music is definitely the show’s saving grace; it adds atmosphere and character to the show, and gives the show a sense of authenticity.
Now I know I said I was done with the negatives, but think of the following as more constructively critical; some suggestions for the second part of the series set to air next year. We’re going to need some major character development. A feature length and several more hour-long episodes and we still don’t know very much about the characters. What we do know, has not given me any strong emotional connections. I connect with Ezekiel because on the one hand he wants to make a difference in his city and build a better life and future for himself with Mylene, but on the other hand he is invested in his group’s musical project. We already know my feelings about Mylene’s character, so it’s safe to say there’s no emotional connection there for me, however, her desires and conflicts have been made clear, so there is development for her character. There are also sprinklings of development in the secret relationship between Papa Fuerte and Mrs Cruz, and Papa Fuerte’s wish to build a better city. But that’s about it. Shaolin Fantastic is a fascinating character; he has one foot in with his musical inspiration, Grand Master Flash, but his other foot is in trouble. He moonlights as Fat Annie’s run-around boy, helping her to carry out illegal actives around the city. His character is all over the place and too impulsive.
One minute he’s friendly with Ezekiel, the next he is unforgiving, and then they are friends again. One minute he’s giving up his criminal life in order to pursue music, the next he finds himself back in Fat Annie’s lap (quite literally).
He also acts as the distracting Yang, to Ezekiel’s focused and determined Yin. He distracts Ezekiel from doing what he is supposed to do and get’s mad when Ezekiel doesn’t give him his full attention. I would like to see more of what Shaolin get’s up to with Grandmaster Flash, maybe how he first came to meet him, because all of the running around is exhausting. Nevertheless, he is an intriguing character and I want to find out more about his origins and how he plans to balance his drug life and his music life while trying not to mix them up.
Overall, the show is entertaining and refreshingly new, although there is major room for improvement. Time will tell whether the show’s creators will fill in the gaps with the second half of Season One when it released. Until then, my rating is 3.5/5.