You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued’

Featuring: Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens, Taylor Goldsmith, Jim James, Marcus Mumford, T Bone Burnett

Capturing the creative process onscreen is always challenging, and Showtime’s “Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued” at best fitfully succeeds. Built around producer T Bone Burnett’s effort to produce an album based on lyrics Bob Dylan wrote nearly 50 years ago, the project explores different approaches to songwriting, but as structured by director Sam Jones, suffers from an absence of Dylan’s presence, both then and now. The five artists participating do convey their passion regarding what’s described as a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” but the documentary provides a rather murky and narrow window into Dylan’s world.

Dylan’s double-album “The Basement Tapes,” recorded in the summer of 1967, has achieved a legendary status, and it was no doubt a heady experience to discover that the then-26-year-old singer wrote dozens of lyrics — in longhand, with scribbles and doodles around them — that he never bothered to set to music or record. (Dylan’s activities had been limited in large part by a motorcycle accident the year before, which forced him to cancel a concert tour.)

Armed with that archaeological treasure trove, Burnett brings together a disparate group of marquee musicians — Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops) Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons) — in what amounts to a songwriting boot camp, designed to put their stamp on Dylan’s work.

The results, available in a just-released album, are eclectic, and in some instances beautiful — perhaps foremost Mumford’s interpretation, even if he laments being a tortoise in terms of the speed with which he pens songs compared with the others.

There’s a sense of playfulness as the artists swap ideas and riffs, but also insecurity, as they work against a tight deadline at the historic Capitol Records Studios.

For all that, what appears to be Dylan’s indifference toward the project is keenly felt — he’s heard only in a fleeting voiceover interview — and Jones’ attempts to replicate the history of “The Basement Tapes” falls flat. Instead of delving into the balladeer’s musical biography or digging up early footage to illustrate his accomplishments, the filmmakers offer grainy shots of actors to represent the era, with the Dylan figure lensed in silhouette or turned away from the camera. Not only does it feel like a reality-TV-type cheat, but it’s an unnecessary one at that.

That’s too bad, since there’s a lot to savor here, even for those who can’t name more than a few of Dylan’s signature songs. And while there’s obviously a commercial component to the enterprise, “Lost Songs” does fritter around the edges of something truly intriguing in regard to examining different styles of artistic inspiration.

As for actually finding its core, however well intentioned this effort might be, that answer’s still blowin’ in the wind.

TV Review: 'Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued'

(Documentary; Showtime, Fri. Nov. 21, 9 p.m.)

Production: Produced by Beware Doll Films.

Crew: Executive producer, Larry Jenkins; producers, T Bone Burnett, Sam Jones, Carol Cohen; director, Jones; editors, Joshua Altman, Brian Freundlich. 107 MIN.

Cast: Featuring: Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens, Taylor Goldsmith, Jim James, Marcus Mumford, T Bone Burnett

More TV

  • EMPIRE: L-R: Toby Onwumere and Jussie

    Jussie Smollett's 'Empire' Character Ties the Knot as Actor's Future on Show Is Unclear

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched the April 24th episode of “Empire.” Jussie Smollett’s character on “Empire” got married in TV’s first-ever black, gay wedding, but the actor’s ongoing assault controversy makes his future on the show uncertain. The episode, entitled “Never Doubt I Love,” was Smollett’s last confirmed appearance in [...]

  • Riverdale -- "Chapter Thirty-Three: Shadow of

    'Riverdale' Airs Luke Perry's Final Scene

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Chapter Fifty-Four: Fear The Reaper,” the April 24 episode of “Riverdale.” “Riverdale” has aired late actor Luke Perry’s final scene as Andrews patriarch Fred. In “Chapter Fifty-Four: Fear the Reaper,” the 19th episode of the third season of “Riverdale,” Archie (KJ Apa) was worried about [...]

  • "We Turn Up This Music Louder

    TV Review: 'The Red Line'

    For all that broadcast TV’s power has attenuated in recent years, what they choose to put on still means something — and, from a certain point of view, something more than the choices made by prestige outlets. After all, the reach of broadcasters is without parallel. They’re simply in that many more homes than prestige [...]

  • Grey's Anatomy Season 15

    Broadcast Bubble Shows 2019: What's Coming Back, What’s Not

    While many broadcast shows have already been picked up for next season, plenty of favorites are still waiting to learn their fates. Given that the broadcasters are currently evaluating this year’s crop of comedy and drama pilots, some current shows will unfortunately have to shuffle off to that great network in the sky, where they [...]

  • Elizabeth Olsen Wanda Vision

    Elizabeth Olsen Says Disney+ Series 'WandaVision' Is Set in 1950s

    “Avengers: Endgame” star Elizabeth Olsen tells Variety that “WandaVision,” the forthcoming Disney+ series about her superhero character, Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, will be set in the 1950s. “There’s quite a few other comic books that we’re pulling from and it’s going to be Wanda and the Vision, and I think at the Disney+ launch chat, they [...]


    CBS Chiefs: Former Exec's Claim Network 'Has a White Problem' Is 'Disheartening,' 'Painful'

    Susan Zirinsky, president of CBS News, and Kelly Kahl, president of CBS Entertainment, sent emails to staff Tuesday expressing concern over claims made in an essay published in Variety in which CBS veteran Whitney Davis detailed racist discrimination and sexual harassment she witnessed and was subjected to at the network. In response, Zirinsky said Davis’ [...]

  • BBC Studios Making Prince Charles Series

    BBC Studios Making Prince Charles Series for ITV

    ITV has greenlit a BBC Studios-produced series about Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne. “Inside the Duchy” (working title) will follow the Prince of Wales over two one-hour episodes to mark his 50th year as the holder of the title of Duke of Cornwall. The producers said the series will give an unprecedented [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content