Monday, March 28, 2016

Ray Romano is a golden god on Vinyl

Ray Ramono on Vinyl
Ray Ramono on HBO's Vinyl.

Ray Romano plays a coke-snorting, foul-mouthed, scene-stealing schmo on HBO's Vinyl, and I could scream with joy. Joy, I tell you!

It's not just that it's hilarious to see him play a record company promo guy in full-on '70s finery and facial hair, it's that he's a riot at it. He gets the funniest lines, he knocks 'em out of the park, and he absolutely rocks being a bit of a d-bag/loser with a fancy job title. He kind of makes it look badass. Ray Romano! Badass! Just by being so damn awesome in the role!

Last night's episode ("The King and I") featured Ray getting down and dirty with some lovely ladies in Vegas. And, I mean, on my god, he was being a coked-up douche without a thought to the family back home, and I realized: This is the "Ray Barone" we could never see on Everybody Loves Raymond. He was not the world's greatest father or husband on that show, but you loved him anyway, because how could you not? And now it's like seeing how dark things really got on his out-of-town trips for the sports column. It's like stepping through the looking glass, and it is way messed up on the other side.

I know, I know, this is a different role and his character, Zak Yankovich, is not Ray Barone. And he really does show off his acting chops in creating a character so different from his famous sitcom role, a character that is serious and dark and utterly believable (yet still sneaks in some riotously funny moments). I don't sit there thinking "That's Ray Barone." It took a few minutes to even realize who he was in the first episode. 

But at times I suddenly remember it's Ray Romano and can't help thinking, holy shit! Did he just say that?! When he lays down a funny line, or something dirty or outrageous comes out of his mouth, it's like manna from heaven! So good, so delightful.

And in a weird way, I'm proud of him for this. He's had a hugely successful career and doesn't need to work to knock out that rent. He certainly doesn't need to tackle a difficult role that must take him out of his comfort zone; he clearly wanted the challenge. He's a great stand-up, he starred in a beloved sitcom that holds up crazy well in reruns, and he was surprisingly good in Parenthood. I don't mean that as an insult -- I wasn't surprised he was good, I was just surprised to see him tackle a serious role. And he crushed it. 

Now he turned it up to 11 for Vinyl. Holy hell in a handbasket, did Ray Romano ever stretch for this role, and then slay it. He just kills it. Much love, much respect.

And someone, somewhere, has got to pull together a clip of Ray's greatest lines on Vinyl. I wish I'd been jotting them down all along. Seriously, do yourself a favor and check out this show. There are plenty of other reasons to watch, but Ray Romano is the cherry on this stoned-ass, rocked-out sundae. Take a bite already!

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