Last night’s 2016 Golden Globe awards were full of surprises, and those surprises were not just limited to Leonardo DiCaprio’s reaction to Lady Gaga, Ricky Gervais’ Mel Gibson jokes, or Tom Hanks’ impression of Denzel.
The biggest surprises of the night were actually the winners in most of the television categories. In fact, it often felt like the Hollywood Foreign Press chose the winners they thought would be the most surprised by their win, as though hoping for a great speech from an astonished winner. The Golden Globes have always gravitated toward the new and exciting (like Rachel Bloom’s deserving win for My Ex-Girlfriend) and the popular over the deserving (see Lady Gaga for American Horror Story).
However, the most surprising winner of the night was Mozart in the Jungle, which not only took home the Golden Globe for Best Comedy, Gael García Bernal also took home the Best Actor in a Comedy trophy, beating out the likes of Jeffrey Tambor, Aziz Ansari, and thespian Patrick Stewart.
What’s most surprising to me about Mozart in the Jungles’ wins is that it’s not a low-rated, but provocative show like Mr. Robot or a low-rated, but edgy musical comedy like My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The thing about Mozart in the Jungle is that it is the most conservative series in the comedy category.
I am one of the few who has actually watched Mozart in the Jungle, and I like it. A lot. It’s frothy and fun, and an absolute pleasure to watch, but best comedy of the year it is not. It does not have the intelligence of Transparent, the depth of Orange is the New Black, the dark themes and emotional resonance of Casual, the satirical brilliance of Veep or the relevance and comedic sophistication of Silicon Valley.
Created by Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, and Paul Weitz, Mozart in the Jungle can best be described as a “nice” show. When people ask me if I think they would like Mozart in the Jungle, I ask them how many hours of NPR they listen to, because it’s a show that’s essentially been engineered for an affluent, white NPR-listening audience. It’s sweet and low key, and if you like Slings and Arrows, you’ll like Mozart in the Jungle. In fact, Mozart in the Jungle is written specifically for people who have heard of the amazing Canadian series that introduced the world to Rachel McAdams because the best way to describe it: Slings and Arrows with classical music instead of Shakespeare.
In it, Bernal plays Rodrigo, the upstart maestro of the New York Symphony, a young genius who pushes out the retiring Thomas, played by Malcolm McDowell. He has to essentially take over the symphony, deal with recalcitrant musicians who are opposed to change, and make the symphony appealing to a new generation. Bernadette Peters — who is 67 years old and doesn’t look a day over 40 — plays his boss, who is charged with raising money to keep the symphony alive. Meanwhile, Saffron Burrows plays a veteran musician who is having an affair with the outgoing conductor. Lola Kirke, (sister of Girls‘ Jemima Kirke), however, is the real star of Mozart in the Jungle. She’s the newbie oboe player and assistant slash possible love interest to Rodrigo, and she is delightfully effervescent, and reminiscent of Melissa Fumero in Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
It really is a great show: It is sweet and enjoyably easy to watch. However, it is not an essential comedy. It’s not a show that inspires any conversations beyond, “Oooh! I really like Mozart in the Jungle!” It is not “addictive.” Its themes are neither relevant nor important, and there is absolutely nothing edgy about its comedy. It’s a fastball down the middle, designed to appeal to an affluent audience that will subscribe to Amazon Prime. It’s nice of the Golden Globes to give it some attention, but Hulu’s Casual was the little-seen choice among the nominees that deserved the extra attention (while Veep or Silicon Valley likely deserved the win).
There are a lot of great shows to choose from right now. Mozart in the Jungle is a “good” show, but for those with limited bandwidth, it should not be a priority. It is the television equivalent of a good beach read: Quick, fun and forgettable.