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Scott D. Pierce: Despite pedigree, 'Roadies' is mediocre at best

Published June 28, 2016 8:41 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It's impossible to go into Showtime's "Roadies" without huge expectations.

The new series (Sunday, 11 p.m.) was created by Cameron Crowe, who won a screenwriting Oscar for "Almost Famous." He teamed up with J.J. Abrams (who revived the "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" franchises) and Winnie Holzman (who not only created the iconic TV series "My So-Called Life" but came up with the idea to turn "Wicked" into a musical and wrote the book for the Broadway show).

Despite that pedigree, "Roadies" isn't great. It isn't even good. It's sort of … meh.



"Roadies" is a comedy/drama about the people who work behind the scenes of a touring band — the (fictional) folk-rock Staton-House Band.

It's a show about music … sort of. It's about the people behind the music. People who love music but don't sing or play an instrument.

"The show isn't about the big performance you get from a star," said Crowe, who wrote the first two episodes and directed the first three. "The show is about everything that goes into setting the stage for that, and these are the people that live and die for that and don't have to hang out with the star. They are here to make your night great."

Luke Wilson stars as Bill, the tour manager who's good at his job and seemingly terrible at life. The first scene in the first episode features Bill having sex with a woman less than half his age, which is a mistake for reasons that have nothing to do with how old she is.

(It was sort of jaw-dropping to hear Abrams describe "Roadies" as "a family show" — a comment he had to clarify: "I mean, it's about this family. And whereas most family stories, the family is bound by blood, this family is bound by the love of music.")

Carla Gugino stars as Shelli, the production manager. Turns out that — exactly as you'd expect — Shelli and Bill used to be a couple but it didn't work out. Although — exactly as you'd expect — they clearly still have feelings for each other.

It's not exactly original.

Bill and Shelli head up a crew that's filled with scripted eccentrics. In other words, none of them feels real. The worst of a bad lot has to be the new financial adviser. Reg (Rafe Spall), who's all about marketing and money managing, knows nothing about music and is determined to fire as many people as possible. He's completely a caricature.

And when Rainn Wilson shows up as a music blogger in Episode 3, it's a joke. And not in a good way.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about "Roadies" is that Crowe and Abrams have been talking about doing this series since 2007. And this is the best they could come up with?

If you like music — and who doesn't? — you want to like "Roadies."

"The premise of it is let's just celebrate music and the people that are so passionate about it," Crowe said. "And it happened, in a way, that all of the people working on the show feel that way. And it kind of seeps into the frames and the scenes."

Yeah, not enough seepage in the first three episodes, at least. "Roadies" is so convinced it's clever that it feels like it's talking down to us. It feels forced.

I watched the first three episodes … because it's my job. And it was a bit of a chore.

Watching TV should be fun. It shouldn't feel like work.

Scott D. Pierce covers TV for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.

 

 

 

 

 

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