I have read the Nick Hornby book.
I have heard the Spotify playlist.
Not necessarily in that order.
Actually, my copy of the book says Now a series on Hulu on the cover, so take a guess.
Let’s hit the points and the minor changes before we get to the main meat of this post.
- Rob (of various genders and last names), is an ex-DJ, record collector and owner of a small record shop named Championship Vinyl. Book: London. Movie: Chicago. Hulu: New York. For Hulu, Rob is short for Robyn.
- Rob proves worth and skill and knowledge of the CV clientele by calling the shot, predicting the sale of five copies of an album by playing one song. Doesn’t happen in the book, but in the movie it’s Three E.P.s by the Beta Band, while for Hulu, it’s Love, Loss and Auto-Tune by Swamp Dogg. The specific song used in the movie, “Dry The Rain”, does show up in the Hulu show.
- There are two others who work at CV: Dick, a quieter clerk who gravitates to the most obscure tracks, and Barry, a louder and more intense person with an interest in making music, not just talking about it. Except, for Hulu, these are replaced by Simon, a gay man who came out while dating Rob, and Cherise, who sounds natural saying things written for Jack Black. All three versions try to force a mood change in their first appearance by blasting “Walking On Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves, which is good.
- There is a singer who plays a show that the clerks drag Rob to, who then visits the store and eventually sleep with Rob. In the book, Marie deSalle, who came from Nashville and looks like pre-_L.A. Law_ Susan Dey. In the book, Marie deSalle looking like and played by Lisa Bonet. In the show, Liam, a 19-year-old up-and-coming pop singer.
- Rob starts a plan to revisit the Top Five Heartbreaks and learn what went wrong. In the book, Rob is merely listening to and thinking about “Bobby Jean” from Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The U.S.A. while movie Rob converses with him while Rob is in bed and Springsteen is off backstage somewhere with a Telecaster, and Hulu Rob is drinking wine and listening to “Heart of Glass” with Debbie Harry dancing in her living room with a glass of wine of her own. I actually thing the conceit works but works best in the Hulu version.
There are other points to hit – the shoplifters are here, but weren’t in the book; instead of John Cusack’s sister Joan playing Liz, the back-channel to Rob’s heartbreaking most-current ex, it’s her brother – but by and large, there’s great amounts of carry-over from one medium to another that makes parts of the story.
One specific thing I can name carried and adapted from the book but not the movie: book Rob goes to a movie with his parents, and sees another fully-grown man going to the theater with his parents, and dubs him (IIRC) The Most Pathetic Man On The Face Of The Earth (TMPMOTFOTE), while there’s an older woman that Rob sees from her apartment that serves a similar purpose without the insulting name.
But there are differences, and I believe they mean that, however long the show remains on Hulu, it cannot end in the same way as the book and movie.
(Book/Movie) Rob had a bad breakup with Laura, who moves in with a neighbor that recently moved elsewhere in town, Ian Raymond (sometimes called “Ray”). Laura is a lawyer, who started out doing legal aid but, by the time of the movie starts, works for a large firm and is doing well.
I am not sure that this is the correct reading of the book/movie narrative, but from Laura’s perspective, she loves Rob, but not the current version of him. In fact, that version is poisonous and insufferable. They get back together after the death of her father, and soon after, she arranges to have him DJ at a club for her friends and co-workers. He tames himself, resigning himself to growing older and staying in the relationship, because Love is not the infatuation that Pop Music has been selling him his entire life. I mean, the events happened, but the idea that his character change is orchestrated by Laura without opening her agency to the narrative is perhaps not fully on.
In both, I would argue that Laura returning to Rob after the funeral is a bit unmotivated, which is the one failing in those two works that I did enjoy.
In the Hulu show, however:
- Rob breaks up with Mac, who is from England, returned to England for a year, and returns with Lily. (Much of the amusing story bits that accompany Ian in the previous versions are transferred to Lily. I don’t think this 100% works, because the gender swap brings extra baggage: Consider Lucinda’s original “Changed the Locks” with Tom Petty’s cover and while the arrangements are similar and the words are the same, the emotions differ. Ian is afraid of Rob as creepy stalker guy after repeated crank calls, while Lily is afraid of Rob as a rival for Mac.)
- In the first episode, Rob goes on a Tinder date with Clyde, who just moved from Colorado and listens to Phish. She enjoys his company, but she doesn’t commit to him, until he tells here he can’t anymore. The “Do we have a chance?”/”Nine percent” conversation is Laura’s in the book, so he has to be a contender to end up with Rob, even if he listens to Phish.
- Marie is presented as an independent musician, playing small shows and selling her own cassettes at the merch table afterwards, while Liam is playing in large venues with large crowds and backstage passes. My guess would be that, instead of becoming a part of Rob’s social circle, he becomes the show’s go-to pop reference.
- Simon has a repeating series of breakups with Ben, who is a lawyer. Some of book-Rob’s discomfort about relationships with different levels of success are brought to this, instead going with Blake, the owner of a coffee shop. (“But we hate this place!”, says Rob when she finds Simon waiting in line.) This is similar to Dick from the book starts a relationship with a woman whose favorite band was Simple Minds, of all things!
So, things are open. I’m 90% sure that Rob will end up with Clyde, but I cannot fully commit to that. The key moment bringing Rob and Laura back together was the death of Laura’s father, but we know nothing about either Clyde’s family or Mac’s family, who are presumably miles away. So, even if I know it’s gonna be with Clyde, I don’t know how.
This is interesting. This is good. I don’t know, or I can’t know, where this is going to go. I can’t even say that Cherise will form Sonic Death Monkey, and despite how golden that name is, I do doubt it.
Clearly, I enjoyed all versions of this title, and I enjoyed the series enough to watch it twice; first in a binge overnight when I couldn’t sleep, and later with my wife over two days. I think that we’re at a point where Championship Vinyl could be a thing, when part of the point in 1995 and 2000 was that he was tied to a dying thing. I don’t think “Lonely” by Swamp Dogg matches “Dry The Rain”, but I love the deep defense of Disco and Sylvester, soundtracking a man’s frustration with his significant other’s social circle with GBH, and the transition of the magic recording being moved from a posthumus Otis Redding to a first-pressing David Bowie album with a misspelled Tony Visconti credit, and that album being turned over to get a Fender Mustang to support her friend, that is a change I appreciate.
I fully endorse this series. My guesses for S2 might have nothing to do with what actually happens, and I still like all the changes and all the things they kept.