The music business and fictional television have never enjoyed a lengthy marriage and “Platinum,” a snapshot of the rough ‘n’ sexy world of hip-hop, isn’t likely to change that. At its core is the relationship between two brothers, Jackson (Jason George) and Grady Rhames (Sticky Fingaz), that has elements of truth about business and family, but the peripheral characters in the world of Sweetback Records is overly stereotypical. Soap opera quality of successive one-on-one confrontations gets wearying after an hour.
For all the talent associated with this show that has a handle on urban humor and pics oriented toward youths — scribe John Ridley (“Undercover Brother”), co-creator Sofia Coppola (“Virgin Suicides”), director John Bray (“All About the Benjamins”) — it’s startling that “Platinum” is so unaffecting. Production looks hurried and the actors haven’t completely settled into their roles, and one touch — a dinner party shot in slo-mo — is so misguided it should never be repeated anywhere.
Pilot opens with Sweetback’s version of Slim Shady, Versis (Vishiss), arguing with and then shooting the director of his new video. The director’s demand of $75,000 to keep quiet about the incident leads to the disclosure that Sweetback is having financial troubles due to Versis’ second album underperforming at retail.
Script shows little understanding of the music business. Execs are complaining that profits are down 6% (if only!) and although they mention having 23 acts on the roster, none of them seems capable of selling any records. Which leads to the Rhames brothers going after the rapper Pharos on a rival label headed by Max (N’Bushe Wright). And that leads to the threat of a hostile takeover, the beating of Sweetback’s white lawyer David Ross (Steven Pasquale) and dropping a reporter from the Source out of the window of his tony apartment (OK, maybe they get that part of the record biz right).
Everybody in the pilot eventually stares steely eyed at someone who has wronged them, and seemingly only Jackson has what it takes to keep Sweetback on track. He reinvigorates his relationship with his talent-chasing brother Grady and wife Monica (Lalanya Masters).
While Jackson’s the do-right man with the brains for business, Sticky Fingaz plays Grady like he’s been locked in cell and watched rap videos 24/7. There’s the cars, the throwback jerseys, tilted caps, do-rag, the dope-smokin’ posse that nods to his every word — and he even calls a woman he’s making out with a “bitch.” It’s safe to assume “Platinum” will be hunting for cameos from current rappers to make it past the May sweeps.