×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Seven Things We Learned About ‘Shangri-La’ and Rick Rubin from Showtime’s Series

Showtime’s documentary series “Shangri-La” insists it is not a biographical documentary on uber-producer Rick Rubin, and it’s not meant as a four-hour advertisement for Rubin’s legendary Malibu studio, after which the four-part series is named … but it feels like a little bit of both those things. “Shangri-La” is primarily filmed at the studio where the viewer follows the barefooted Rubin around the property, eavesdropping on conversations he has with both likely characters — in the form of musicians such as Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig and LL Cool J — to unlikely characters such as surfer Laird Hamilton, magician David Blaine and entrepreneur Seth Godin. Here are a few unexpected things we learned watching each hour-long episode.

Shangri-La is entirely devoid of any decoration.
The default look for most professional recording studios is walls covered with platinum records and glass cases littered with awards, plus personalized items from all the artists who recorded there, quirky music memorabilia and a variety of screens. Shangri-La, though, is entirely bare. The whitewashed rooms of the multiple buildings of the studio barely house any furniture, let alone knick-knacks. Filmmaker Morgan Neville explains: “The idea is to not have any art on the walls, so your brain is as empty as possible, so you aren’t thinking of a picture — you have to come up with one.”

The complex is home to a treasure trove of music artifacts.
All the doo-dads that are absent from the main space of the studio are housed out of sight behind a number of closed doors and down some stairs. “The Library,” as it is called, is revealed less than halfway through the first episode. A breath-catching and comprehensive music museum, these extensive archives include rare books, historic instruments and old recordings — what the studio manager, Eric Lynn, refers to as “inspiration pieces.” These archives are managed by USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism’s Josh Kun, who speaks knowledgeably about their contents over the course of the four episodes.

The studio gets a facelift after each artist completes their recording.
The team at Shangri-La repaints and refreshes the entire space in between artists. The entirely white and stark space is restarted for each new session. Long-handled rollers dipped in pure white paint go over the already very white rooms, brightening them up even more. The meticulous dusting of the mixing board knobs and vacuuming of the ducts by the studio’s engineers is positively enviable and the stuff of allergen-free dreams.

Television’s Mr. Ed used to live there.
The church-like stand-alone studio on Shangri-La’s property used to be a barn that housed Mr. Ed, the titular horse from the 1960s television show, while he was on hiatus. “Shangri-La” does not delve into the history of this property, as that is not its focus, but there are bits here and there that reveal random moments in its metamorphosis to the present time … and Mr. Ed made that cut.

Shangri-La survived the 2018 Woolsey Fire, but Rubin’s two homes did not.
During the 2018 Woolsey Fire, Rubin lost his two nearby Malibu homes, burnt right down to the ground. Only one of Shangri-La’s staff, the hugely likeable Sean G., stayed on-site at the studio, watering its surroundings and saving the entire property from any damage.

Rubin wears the same uniform every day.
Like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Albert Einstein and even Elizabeth Holmes, Rubin doesn’t waste valuable creative time picking a wardrobe. Instead, he repeats the same clothes every day. In Rubin’s case, this is a white T-shirt, loose black shorts and no shoes. In a conversation with Tyler the Creator, Rubin says, “The earth actually has an electrical and magnetic energy that goes into our body if we are naked on it, and if we’re covered all the time, we don’t get to feel it. In terms of health and in terms of knowing things, part of the life source is being tapped into the earth.”

Rubin is obsessed with professional wrestling, and with magic.
With all the time he has on his hands, Rubin watches hours of professional wrestling on a weekly basis, purportedly looking for the connection between what is real and unreal. By that same token, he has been an amateur practitioner and admirer of magic, looking for the spark that will make the unbelievable believable. As Blaine explains to Rubin, “Once you know that [the magician is] really doing that, it makes the magic possible. It makes it possible for you to believe that the magic is possible…” “Makes sense,” Rubin says in reply.

More TV

  • Shefali Shah in Delhi Crime

    'Delhi Crime’ Wins big at Asian Academy Creative Awards

    Richie Mehta’s harrowing Netflix series “Delhi Crime” was the big winner at the 2nd annual Asian Academy Creative Awards in Singapore on Friday. Representing the show, lead actress Shefali Shah was rushed off her feet as she repeatedly had to return to the stage. “Delhi Crime” earned her best actress in a leading role, best [...]

  • KARNAWAL

    ‘Karnawal,’ ‘Restless,’ ‘Summer White,’ ‘Firsts’ Win Big at Ventana Sur

    BUENOS AIRES  — With Ventana Sur now firing on multiple cylinders, featuring pix-in post or project competitions for not only art films but also genre pics and animation – two sectors embraced by young creators in Latin America – “Karnawal,” “Restless,” “Summer White” and  “Firsts” proved big winners among Ventana Sur’s arthouse and animation competitions, [...]

  • Robert Walker Jr.

    'Star Trek' Actor Robert Walker Jr. Dies at 79

    Robert Walker Jr., son of actors Robert Walker and Jennifer Jones, died Thursday, his family confirmed to the official website for the television show “Star Trek.” He was 79. Walker Jr. is best remembered for playing the titular Charlie Evans in the “Star Trek” episode “Charlie X” from the show’s first season in 1966. His [...]

  • Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James, right,

    TV Ratings: Why Is the NBA Shooting Air Balls?

    The NBA’s TV ratings so far this season have been far from all-star level. Viewership across ESPN, TNT and NBA TV is down 15% year-to-year overall, according to Nielsen figures. TNT’s coverage is averaging 1.3 million viewers through 14 telecasts, down 21% versus last year’s comparable coverage, while on ESPN the picture isn’t much prettier. The [...]

  • Claire Danes, Homeland

    TV News Roundup: Showtime Releases 'Homeland' Final Season Trailer

    In today’s TV news roundup, Showtime drops the trailer for the final season of “Homeland,” and National Geographic reveals the first look at Cynthia Erivo as Aretha Franklin in “Genius: Aretha.” FIRST LOOKS Showtime released the trailer for the final season of “Homeland,“ premiering Feb. 9. The eighth and final season, starring Claire Danes and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content