Early in The Eddy, the eight-part Netflix miniseries written by Jack Thorne and brought to the screen in part by Oscar-winner Damien Chazelle, it’s said if one “can’t be good, be infamous.” Those words are muttered by reluctant musician Elliot Udo, played to precise effect by Andre Holland, as he struggles to keep his Parisian jazz club open. With a growing list of problems, we come to understand why Elliot has trouble being good or courting infamy. The show itself, however, never quite hits either note, eschewing both for a sort of noisy sameness.
This takes some doing because The Eddy really does try its best to entertain, to get viewers to invest, and to educate about the jazz scene in Paris. Elliot’s problems begin with his resistance to performing, but soon sprawl to include his estranged daughter Julie (Amandla Stenberg), his erstwhile lover and his band’s lead singer Maja (Joanna Kulig), his ominously obscured partnership with Farid (Tahir Rahim), and more. The show’s international cast implies broad world-building, and in truth, it does visualize different lives—young and old, local and foreign, known and unknown—through each character-centric episode. Yet it’s the relationship between Elliot and Farid that gives the series its dominant hook, one that also happens to be its least interesting element. Steered in that direction, the series strains to create drama and relies too much on boring Difficult Man tropes from recent prestige television. What’s worse, the narrative machinations of the final pair of episodes, if described here, would sound entirely ridiculous. By that measure, I could only wonder how we ended up there.
The last gripe to have with The Eddy concerns the music, created for the series by Glen Ballard and Randy Kerber. It wasn’t really to my taste, but the performances do offer something fresh (even if jazz, despite Chazelle’s insistence, is not really happening anymore). It’s possible to see a spark of life there too, moments captured between characters that feel alive with the possibility of more. Then the song ends, and you’re likely to forget you ever heard it.