By now, the beats of an aspiring-musician saga are as acquainted as these of a fairy story. There’s the hungry younger artist who appears marked for stardom lengthy earlier than the remainder of the world has caught on. There’s the crappy starter residence, and the glitzy business events, and the boardroom conferences with labels who don’t fairly get it. There’s the second when the hero hears his personal track on the radio, and the second when he caves to the temptations of fame, and the second he’s made to determine to be true to himself.
Generally, within the darker iterations of this story, there’s additionally the spectacular crash after the meteoric rise; within the extra considerate or incisive variations, there could be conversations concerning the limitations of his artwork or the compromises it calls for or its impression on the world. However Neon will not be that story. The Netflix comedy prefers to stay to the sunny facet, at the same time as Santi (Tyler Dean Flores) faces his share of challenges on his manner up Miami’s reggaeton scene. And if its relentless optimism lacks for edge or depth, Santi and his buddies show winsome sufficient to make you bear in mind why this fantasy may be so alluring to start with.
The Backside Line
A sunny however surface-level journey.
Airdate: Thursday, Oct. 19 (Netflix)
Forged: Tyler Dean Flores, Emma Ferreira, Jordan Mendoza, Courtney Taylor
Creators: Shea Serrano, Max Searle
Maybe it is smart that Neon appears so bullish concerning the enterprise, contemplating creators Shea Serrano (Primo) and Max Searle (The Ranch) have stuffed the season’s eight half-hour episodes with recognizable stars of the style. Daddy Yankee serves as an govt producer and Tainy as an govt music producer. One other half-dozen boldface names pop up onscreen as themselves, together with Ken-Y, Jon Z and Jota Rosa. All their appearances are introduced with the type of effusive fawning that, certain, befits Santi and firm’s standing as newcomers to those rarified circles, but additionally sometimes makes Neon come throughout like an prolonged PR marketing campaign.
But when Neon loves its stars, its coronary heart lies with the nobodies. Simply hours after Santi and his childhood besties, music supervisor Ness (Emma Ferreira) and filmmaker Felix (Jordan Mendoza), arrive in Miami, they meet for lunch with Mia (Courtney Taylor), a label rep who casually mentions that their waiter is himself a “actually good” artist who merely by no means made it. “That’s each restaurant right here,” she warns, and he or she ought to know. The closing minutes of the premiere reveal that she’s not the document exec they’d presumed her to be, however an assistant determined to show herself to an detached boss (Santiago Cabrera). She’s a dreamer similar to them, and Neon is nothing if not a celebration of these with the hustle and fervour to get issues completed.
Again and again, seasoned veterans advise Santi and his buddies to relax, to cease wanting so impressed, to behave like they’ve been there. And again and again, their failure to do any of these issues makes for certainly one of Neon‘s most lovable qualities. Santi is outlined by an irrepressible confidence which may learn as annoying if he weren’t so darn charismatic — Miami’s neon lights are not any match for Flores’ million-watt smile. But he’s by no means too cool to squeal along with his buddies over a brand new gig or a sizzling date. Ness virtually stalks Celeste (Alycia Pascual-Peña), an influential critic, till she agrees to attend certainly one of Santi’s performances: “I figured should you try to kill me, a minimum of it’ll make an excellent story,” Celeste deadpans upon arrival. In time, their collective enthusiasm proves infectious to only about everybody they encounter, as much as and together with this TV viewer.
In equity, Neon‘s Miami provides them with loads to marvel at. There’s the stereotypically superior shit, after all — the non-public jets and the paparazzi and the mansion events full of stunning individuals in shiny outfits. However there’s additionally the weirder, funnier, sillier stuff. An episode sees the gang descending upon Artwork Basel, the place a efficiency artist pretends to shoot his personal dick off each 40 minutes. Actual-life musician Jhayco has a recurring function as Santi’s extra profitable rival Javier, who’s determined to relaunch himself as a “mugician” (musician-magician), to the comical befuddlement of his friends. An affectionate Moonlight riff yields each one of many season’s funniest moments and certainly one of its most unexpectedly touching. No marvel our protagonists look so perpetually wide-eyed, and no marvel they appear to be having such a blast.
Regardless of Mia’s early warning about how few individuals succeed within the business, Neon by no means permits a lot doubt that Santi will; its earnest imaginative and prescient of the American dream gained’t enable for somebody with as a lot expertise and drive and pure intention as Santi to fail. (And Santi is outwardly very gifted, though nobody appears to have the ability to give you a praise extra particular than “once-in-a-lifetime good.”) The nice-vibes-only has its limits. Tensions between Santi and Ness and Mia and Felix both get resolved nearly as quickly as they start, or finally fizzle into nothing. Within the season’s most awkward tonal shift, a subplot involving a gun-wielding drug trafficker (Jordana Brewster) struggles to muster up sufficient menace to make an impression.
Extra frustratingly, Neon‘s shiny positivity limits its portrayal of the reggaeton world to the floor degree. For all its gushing over its superstar cameos, the sequence spends little or no time exploring what makes the style distinctive — why particularly it speaks to Santi, what units this nook of the music business aside from those chronicled in, say, Dave or Atlanta or The Idol or the equally Miami-set however a lot grittier Rap Sh!t. Neither is there a lot exploration of any conflicts and contradictions inside the scene. The closest it will get is a storyline a couple of Cuban American pop star, Isa (Genesis Rodriguez), who tries to commandeer Santi’s genuine connection to his Puerto Rican roots as a PR transfer for herself. However what might have been the beginning of a dialog about appropriation, appreciation and Latin id will get smoothed over right into a extra generic storyline about business bloodsuckers profiting from new artists.
But when intellectualizing isn’t Neon‘s factor, having an excellent time is. That, it pulls off with flying colours, delivering an infinite occasion set to danceable beats, and populated by characters value giving a rattling about. So what if Santi’s debut single “Exagerao” seems like one thing lower than the groundbreaking, reputation-making smash we’re advised it’s, and so what if Neon is healthier at replicating the rise-of-a-star formulation than reinventing it? Generally, it’s sufficient to play the hits.