Last August, Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby) translated his filmmaking chops to television for The Get Down, a big-budget musical drama that reimagines the hip hop-disco rivalry of '70s New York. The first batch of episodes introduced viewers to a group of Bronx-based teens chasing stardom from their city's crime-ridden streets, and in the freshly arrived back half of the season, lead characters Ezekiel "Zeke" Figuero (Justice Smith) and Mylene Cruz (Herizen Guardiola) are still pursuing their musical aspirations. After landing a major club hit with "Set Me Free," Mylene performs on Platinum Boogie, and as you're watching, you may be wondering: Is Platinum Boogie a real show?
If it was, there's no evidence of it, at least as far as some online sleuthing reveals. Still, it's very likely that it had some IRL roots. According to Rolling Stone, Luhrmann hired a team of consultants to ensure creative accuracy while shaping The Get Down. Advisors included DJ pioneer Grandmaster Flash and hip-hop veteran Nas — both executive producers — Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Rahiem of the Furious Five; Willie "Marine Boy" Estrada of the Rock Masters; hip-hop's first national recording star Kurtis Blow; Zulu Nation founder Afrika Bambaataa; graffiti icons John "Crash" Matos and Chris "Daze" Ellis; and even Kool Herc, who's credited with spearheading hip-hop from a South Bronx rec room in 1972.
It seems unlikely, then, that Platinum Boogie wouldn't have some sort of historical context. In fact, it bares a notable resemblance to Soul Train, a long-running music and dance program that served as a cornerstone for black popular culture in the late 20th century. According to Pitchfork, the series aired 1,000 episodes over 36 seasons, debuting on October 2, 1971, and signing off on March 25, 2006. Stephen Deusner calls it a "singular institution in American pop culture", writing that, "it created a platform for black artists and presented black culture — fashion, dance, politics — in a positive light."
It makes sense that Mylene would appear on such a show. During its '70s heyday, Soul Train prominently featured disco and hip-hop artists akin to the ones portrayed on The Get Down, including icons like Barry White, the Jackson 5, and Kurtis Blow (who, if you'll recall, was among The Get Down's consultants.)
It is, of course, entirely possible that Platinum Boogie was born of nothing more than fiction, or even that it's an amalgamation of the many variety shows that dominated American television during the era: Sonny & Cher, Donny & Marie, Ed Sullivan, the list goes on. But perhaps none of them had a greater stake in encouraging racial community through music than Soul Train — a message that speaks to the core of The Get Down's premise. Whatever the inspiration behind Platinum Boogie, that's what makes it feel authentic.