I wish there were some redeeming quality to be found in Netflix’s first ever ‘unscripted’ music series, “Westside.” But this show is just agonizingly awful.
The show, the brainchild of out co-creator, cast member and performer Sean Patrick Murray, follows nine young artists, Murray included, struggling to break through the music industry in Los Angeles. All of these artists are young, photogenic and bursting at the seams with overwrought desperation, clichéd sad backstories and the fatalistic belief that this is their last shot to make it and their artistic lives are over if they don’t.
Los Angeles itself is seemingly cast as a lurking menace in dark foreboding noir-ish tones and slow-moving, predatory, panoramic sweeps — whether it’s night or day — as if to say that this is the only place on Earth where the dreams of the young and pretty go to get chewed up and spit out.
Leading the charge with supreme narcissistic confidence and relentless ambition is Murray, who over the course of an interview is never, ever, ever not selling and talking up the show like a time-share salesman.
“The process of creating an ensemble is kind of an art within itself,”Murray said about how he chose the talent for the show. “I’m from the East Coast and I have a strong network of friends who are artists there. My husband and I ended up moving to the West Coast and it takes a while to kind of find a new village of people you love and trust to work with.”
Murray insists on making these artists live together and collaborate on music that, for most of them, is outside their artistic wheelhouses — as if this were scientifically proven to make them better artists. Why is a country artist collaborating on music with a budding R&B diva? Who the hell knows? The results are collaborative musical numbers that are abysmal, making everyone involved looking like players in a third rate pop act. The sad part is, a lot of these performers (R&B singer Erica Gluck and funky pop/rocker Austin Colbe, especially) are talented enough on their own that they really don’t need to be a part of this sad-ass reality TV circus.
Another infuriating part of this show is that Murray makes these artists engage in inane workshops and exercises seemingly just to relive parts of their past to make them cry or lash out in front of their peers.
This is not “Fame,” and Murray is definitely no Debbie Allen.
The show also veers into some pretty irresponsible territory as one of the cast members, already an obvious alcoholic, is shown using cocaine.
Really? “Less Than Zero,” much?
If you could take the worst parts and instincts of reality TV shows like “Making The Band,” “The Real World” and “American Idol,” the result would be “Westside.”
Not that Murray sees any similarities or even any faults with the show. He sees it as a logical step towards bigger things for himself and the cast.
“What is so unique about ‘Westside’ is it’s truly a documentary musical that follows the story of a group a people putting on a live show. Netflix is giving us a platform to document it with original music. Without comparing it to another show, I think we are celebrating our lives through our own voices and original music. I want to continue to create projects and opportunities for myself and other people. My hope for all these cast members is that they create more opportunities to showcase more of their talents. I hope that anyone who loves any show that deals with music will be a fan of our show as well.”
Some of the talent featured on “Westside” deserves a lot better than what this show has to offer. If that is what people have to go through in order to find an audience, it no wonder why the music industry is in the shape it’s in.
Westside is available on Netflix. For more information, visit https://www.netflix.com/title/80201862.