Rock ’n’ roll on television is a pretty hard gig, as the gang at HBO’s just-canceled Vinyl can tell you. All that is so burning, poetic and preposterous about the music, the musicians, the industry and the fans often can seem so descended and diminished when turned to a drama on the small screen — or it can surprisingly shine. The former sadly is true of Showtime’s June 26-debuting Roadies and the latter is thankfully even more so with the return of FX’s comedy Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll for a second 10-episode season on June 30.
As I say in my video review above, the self-explanatory Roadies is a Cameron Crowe greatest hits, and the Almost Famous director and series boss really needs a new set list. Like a band past its prime or just out of ideas, we’ve heard and seen this all before, and it was much better the first time around. In comparison, as I also say in my video review above, creator-star Denis Leary’s Sex&Drugs&Rock&Rock has built on the chords of its debut season of an almost-famous 1990s band’s resurrection into a even more dysfunctional family.
Starting off with a funeral’s aftermath, SDRR — which also stars John Corbett, Elizabeth Gillies, Elaine Hendrix, Robert Kelly and John Ales — has nicely expanded its repertoire, deepened its passions and losses and truly emerged as an ensemble, with rock goddess-in-the-making Gillies and the multitalented Hendrix stepping solidly into the spotlight, both as actors and their characters.
In contrast, the formless and meandering Roadies, which is EP’d by multi-episode director Crowe, J.J Abrams and Winnie Holzman, wastes the talents of The Big Short alum Rafe Spall, Luke Wilson, Carla Gugino and Imogen Poots. In a world seemingly without a lot of hip-hop or pop, this essentially earnest workplace drama about the people who put on the show for the fictional Staton-House Band aims for MOR and barely makes it there, from what I’ve seen.
“This tour is a like a Fellini film crossed with an episode of The Monkees,” Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham tells Wilson’s tour manager character at one point in a Roadies cameo. No disrespect to Buckingham, who really classes the joint up for the brief time he is on the Showtime series, but that remark about the great Italian filmmaker and the made-for-TV band is what Roadies would like to be – nowhere near the mess it is.
Click on my video review above of Roadies and the sophisticated and Hamilton-ribbing second season of Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll to hear more. You also can check out the slightly edited first episode of the Crowe series as Showtime put it up online for free on June 13 – I think you’ll see what I mean.