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The Remix of 'High Fidelity' on Hulu Shows Promise
February 14, 2020  | By David Hinckley

It's a relatively safe bet that we won't be hearing any Garth Brooks music on High Fidelity, the TV adaptation of Nick Hornby's marvelous 1995 novel about people who work in a record store.

Yet it is also true that the theme of the show can be capsulized in one famous Brooks couplet: "Coulda missed the pain / But I'd-a had to miss the dance."

This version of High Fidelity, whose ten episodes become available Friday on Hulu, updates some details from Hornby's book, the 2000 movie version with John Cusack, and the 2006 Broadway musical.

Central character Robin "Rob" Brooks (Zoë Kravitz, top) still runs a record shop in Brooklyn, selling only vinyl. This confirms that High Fidelity is not a business documentary since running a vinyl record store these days is more romantic than lucrative.

Consistent with the book, we join the story after Brooks has been dumped by the love of her life, Russell "Mac" McCormack (Kingsley Ben-Adir).

This leaves her with her shop, where she employs the quirky Simon (David H. Holmes) and Cherise (Da'Vine Joy Randolph). Rob once dated Simon before he realized he's gay.

A good part of the pleasure in Hornby's book flows from the fact that all three of these damaged people deeply love music. It keeps them alive. This TV version doesn't fully convey the intensity of their music appreciation up front, though it will presumably have time to do so as it goes along.

The story begins a year after the Mac breakup, during which time Rob has not dated anyone. When she's not working, she sits in her apartment, puts some vinyl on the turntable, and sits alone smoking weed.

Okay, it's a melancholy setup for a romantic comedy. But bear with it.

She is finally prodded to set up what seems to be an online date with a guy named Clyde (Jake Lacy) who's just moved to New York from Colorado.

This rebound goes about as well as you'd expect for the still-depressed Rob until a series of small odd events send it in a different direction – about five minutes before Rob runs into a new complication.

Things spin out from there. No spoilers, in case anyone hasn't read the book or seen the earlier incarnations.

Kravitz plays Rob more darkly than in previous versions. We spend more time on her misery and less time on the interaction in the shop.

The musical downshift might stem partly from the show's seeming indecision about what music Rob's shop and therefore the show might feature. While a record shop in 2020 obviously would not have the same stock or clientele as a shop in 1995, the creators here seem unsure what to add or substitute.

Rob and Clyde have an extended conversation about Fleetwood Mac's Rumours album while the track "Dreams" plays. We see Rob listening to Ann Peebles.

On the flip side, some of the records in Rob's shop seem to have been made by non-existent groups.

It's a dilemma. The new High Fidelity needs a contemporary feel. It also needs to remind older viewers of the time when vinyl wasn't a novelty, but the way everyone listened to music.

Having Kravitz in the lead underscores that this is a High Fidelity for today's music listeners, people who wouldn't remember Hornby's book and might only vaguely know about Fleetwood Mac.

In fact, this High Fidelity was originally ticketed for the new Disney+ streaming service before being belatedly shuffled to Hulu.

That was the right move. High Fidelity features a lot of four-letter words, casual drug use, and a couple of sex scenes that, while not explicit, go well beyond anything on which Disney wants its brand name.

Still, the new High Fidelity remains largely faithful to the original arc written by Hornby, who is an executive producer of this series.

Despite its deeper shades of grey, it's a solid tribute to plucky young folks, romance, and vinyl records.

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