Mozart in the Jungle

You don’t have to love classical music to enjoy this charming, Golden Globe-winning series. As one critic put it, “Pill popping, pot smoking, back-stabbing, bed hopping and tantrum throwing—now we’re talking classical music!” Overall, the most consistent plot point in the sprawling series (30 half-hour episodes) is a musicians’ union lockout. Otherwise, Mozart in the Jungle is all about the characters, and what a group they are! Leading the pack is Rodrigo De Souza, the eccentric but brilliant conductor new to the symphony. He’s played as a kind of musical magician by the effervescent Gael García Bernal, and he’s reason alone to watch the series. But he’s joined by such talents as Bernadette Peters (as the symphony’s general manager), Malcolm McDowell (as its emeritus conductor), Lola Kirke (as an oboe-playing ingénue), and various classical musicians, such as Joshua Bell, Lang Lang and Emanuel Ax, who make guest appearances. For all its juicy melodrama, this fictional series is ultimately about the sacrifices classical musicians make to pursue their art, and in that respect it’s deeply real.