Netflix UK TV review: Hit Record on TV
James R | On 18, Aug 2015
“Ladies and gentlemen, please turn on all recording devices,” announces a polite voice at the start of each episode of HitRecord on TV – a playful instruction that neatly sums up the subversive, all-inclusive philosophy that governs Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s new series.
While some actors might make their Netflix debut in a glossy drama or edgy sitcom, the (500) Days of Summer and Brick star arrives on the streaming service with something really quite special. If you haven’t heard of Hit Record, the site was launched by the actor and his brother in 2010 as a place where writers, actors, musicians, directors and artists could collaborate on (or contribute to)… something. That thing could be a song, a poem, a film, an animation. Since then, it has grown to become an international hub of ideas; a society joined by the urge to create.
That shared enthusiasm is immediately visible: Gordon-Levitt begins each instalment with a camera panning through a room of excited fans. That camera sits in his hand throughout, a permanent extension of his arm. The crowd shots, though, inevitably end up in a selfie, as Gordon-Levitt’s beaming face presides over proceedings. It’s a motif occasionally sits uncomfortably on-screen, as the actor generally involves himself in each act, whether he’s playing the piano or singing and dancing with Tony Danza. But the fleeting ring of vanity is mostly drowned out by his clear passion for the whole project: this is a star who clearly enjoys sharing the spotlight with others as much as he does flexing his versatile muscles on stage.
The best moments arrive when he steps into the background. One stand-out is a short film, acted by Elle Fanning and narrated by a Scottish contributor, about someone seeing the stars for the first time. Another, a poem (Above It All) read out by a boy on an empty platform. Often, these segments are shot against a green screen with hand-drawn animations used to fill in the gaps, the kind of hodge-podge approach that captures the low-fi, communal spirit of the overall enterprise.
The anything-goes approach also means that each 20-minute episode has enough diversity to stop things becoming monotonous. Between its songs, readings and documentary interludes, the result is a variety show for the digital age; a virtual vaudeville that mixes cutting-edge technology with the charm of old-school entertainment. The 1930s may be a long time ago, but watching talent come to life is as fun as ever. Hit Record on TV’s unique thrill is the knowledge that, when the next season arrives on Netflix, you could be a part of it.
Season 1 and 2 of Hit Record on TV are available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.