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Dark1984

'Westside': TV Review

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Dark1984    289
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Netflix aims for its own version of 'The Hills' with this heavily contrived look at making it in the music industry in Los Angeles.


The Law of Diminishing Returns takes literal televisual form in Netflix's new unscripted series Westside.


The music-infused drama begins with a 57-minute premiere and then each of the three subsequent episodes made available to critics is shorter than the one before, down to only 40 minutes by the fourth installment. Each passing episode strays further and further from the originally presented premise. Each passing episode becomes less structured, less coherent, less invested in its main characters. And with each episode I watched, I became less and less convinced of the talent, star power and vitality of the show's aspiring musicians. The diffusion and diminishment of Westside as it progresses is so clear it would almost seem calculated except that there's no reason for it to be — unless the last of the eight episodes turns out to just be one of the producers standing in front of the camera shrugging for exactly one minute before a fade to black.


Netflix says that Westside "follows the lives of nine young musicians in Los Angeles as they pursue their dreams in the competitive music industry," an already bland synopsis that still makes the show sound looser and more potentially entertaining than it is.


Directed by James Carroll and produced by Love Productions, the series actually begins with musician and producer Sean Patrick Murray rounding up a group of artists for what he says will be a showcase event at a Los Angeles nightclub. He starts with friends James, a grouchy, alcoholic rocker, and Caitlin, who isn't exciting until she starts gabbing nonstop about her polyamorous relationship, and recruits seven others including former girl group veteran Taz; pot-smoking boy band alum Leo; former child actor Erica (press notes call her "Arika"); and Pia Toscano, who finished ninth on one of the last seasons of American Idol that anybody really watched. What starts out sounding a little bit like a concert evolves quickly into something closer to a night of musical theater or cabaret, not that there's anything wrong with either of those things. The event that Sean is planning gives the show its entire shape and structure, so don't be thinking this is any fly-on-the-wall verite examination of these people, their process and progress in the industry, or any sort of semi-scripted soap opera in the vein of The Hills or Fox's short-lived Nashville. It's more a "Let's put on a show and pretend this would be happening at all if not for the TV cameras circling us at all times!"

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