Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

We didn’t start the fire, we’re only pitching some ideas for that Billy Joel TV anthology

Joel (right), with the subject/producer of a recent rock biopic
Photo: Scott Gries (Getty Images)

Billy Joel is a great interview subject who wrote some very good music, but his is not a life built for the type of Oscar-baiting biopics and high-concept jukebox musicals that are grasping at the tails of Rami Malek’s ermine cape. It’s not even the more straightforward rise-fall-rise trajectory that gave Jamie Foxx and Reese Witherspoon their Academy Awards (and Dewey Cox the inspiration to walk both bold and hard): Struggles with the recording industry, marriage, and alcohol aside, the “We Didn’t Start The Fire” singer has lived a fairly charmed and uneventful life, one in which he’s sold more albums than Michael Jackson or The Rolling Stones and still headlines Madison Square Garden on a monthly basis in spite of not releasing any new material since 2001. He is an entertainer, and he knows just where he stands—lyrics that he wrote before he’d ever played all kinds of palaces, and more crucial to a proposed Billy Joel TV series than any biographical details.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, MGM Television has teamed with the singer-songwriter for what they’re terming an “arc-thology” (clumsy, but hey: So’s inverting the name of a familiar cocktail in order to get a rhyme with “in”) “based on lyrics of his hits and populated by characters from his songs.” The titular leads of “Piano Man” and “The Stranger” (the former a little more fleshed out in song than the latter) will meet you anytime you want in Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, along with Mama Leone and Sgt. O’Leary from “Movin’ Out”—which previously lent its title to the Twyla Tharp-directed show that turned the Billy Joel songbook into a ’60s-set ballet. But that’s just skimming the surface of his discography: Three of those examples and the title of the show come from the same record. In the interest of digging deeper, allow The A.V. Club to pitch some Scenes From An Italian Restaurant episodes—and please, MGM Television: Don’t go changing them to try and please us.

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“Miami 2017”

Bridging the literal and the figurative in Joel’s chronicle of a “Ford To City: Drop Dead”-era New York, this retro-dystopian tale takes place in what’s left of The Big Apple circa 2017, after the churches have burned, the Yankees have skipped town, and roving bands of Warriors-esque street toughs fight for control of Queens and a sinking, electricity-deprived Manhattan.

“It’s Still Rock ’N’ Roll To Me”

Next phase, new wave, dance craze, anyways: In this musical episode, our protagonist comes down with an affliction that makes all conversation and communication sound like rock ’n’ roll to them.

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“Big Man On Mulberry Street”

A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Moonlighting episode of the same name, written and directed by the series’ creator Glenn Gordon Caron and absolutely oozing the meta-commentary of Moonlighting at its most indulgent.

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“Goodnight Saigon”

There’s going to be a Vietnam episode and there’s nothing any of us can do about it.

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“Zanzibar”

A backdoor pilot for a more experimental, more complex Steely Dan anthology series.

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Of course, if you’re dissatisfied with this approach, and still want a Billy Joel bio, Kroll Show’s got you covered. Thanks, Captain Jack!

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About the author

Erik Adams

Managing editor, The A.V. Club