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'Mozart in the Jungle' Returns for Season 4
February 16, 2018  | By David Hinckley

The fourth movement, er, season of Mozart in the Jungle maintains the breezy charm that’s made it one of the most enjoyable binges in streaming land.

The new Mozart season becomes available Friday on Amazon Prime, and it’s as light-hearted, good-natured, unfiltered, and occasionally silly as ever.

That doesn’t mean it never raises serious themes and issues. But like its central male character, Rodrigo De Souza (Gael Garcia Bernal, top), it never treats anything as ominous and foreboding when it could do a quick sidestep, toss out an amusing wisecrack and carry on as if all will inevitably be well.

Roughly based on the 2005 memoir by Blair Tindall, an oboist with the New York Philharmonic, Mozart follows Hailey Rutledge (Lola Kirke, top), a small-town oboe player who travels to New York in search of the big time.

She finds it, sort of, in a gig with the fictional New York Symphony. The NYS is brimming with talented oddball musicians who can get nasty, but whose many quirks are mostly endearing. As Hailey was arriving, it had just hired Rodrigo to be its new conductor.

He replaced Thomas Pembridge (Malcolm McDowell, right), the long-time conductor who was eased into retirement partly because Gloria Windsor (Bernadette Peters, right), president of the struggling symphony, felt it needed new ideas and new blood.

Thomas, more than a bit of a diva, didn’t take this well, and as the fourth season opens, he’s found a way to get back in the game with a rival group. At the same time, he isn’t wounded enough to halt his long-running affair with Gloria.

He’s also become friends with Rodrigo, strangely, and the new season sees the two of them in a kind of role reversal as Rodrigo finds himself having to defend his own artistic boldness.

Hailey, meanwhile, is feeling more secure in New York, though Mozart makes it clear that any professional classical musician who feels too secure has become delusional.

After a long stretch in which Hailey was mostly concerned with her career and making a living, some of her focus now has shifted to her inevitable deepened relationship with Rodrigo.

Oh yes, and her growing interest in becoming a conductor herself.

In this season as in the previous three, no classical music expertise or even particular classical music interest is required to enjoy this show.

One of Mozart’s most endearing and impressive achievements is to make a symphony orchestra seem like any other workplace without taking away any of the exotic auras that inherently swirl around the world of high creativity.

Kirke has moved Hailey herself into the front ranks of contemporary TV series characters. She has become stronger, tougher, and more confident, which has also made her funnier. She’s better in the verbal swordfights, and she’s a match for the smart, mercurial Rodrigo, at the same time we understand she still has vulnerable spots.

While you’ll never see anyone eating popcorn in the audience at a real-life symphony orchestra performance, Mozart in the Jungle is primo popcorn TV.

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