If there is anyone out there who has already shown us the credibility to show the inner workings of life in the music scene.. well.. then.. yeah, it’s writer/director Cameron Crowe. His 2000 cinematic opus, Almost Famous, was a highly successful journey through the lives of a fictitious band on the concert tour road.
Now with Showtime’s Roadies, Crowe has paired up with some guy named J.J. Abrams, and has taken a behind-the-scenes look at the men and women that make it all possible for these touring musical acts in the first place.
The pilot episode introduces us to a large group of crew members, led by their production manager Shelli (Wayward Pines’ Carla Gugino) and their tour manager Bill (Old School’s Luke Wilson), who pull into a concert arena in whereelsebut New Orleans to set up the first night’s gig. The story continues in and around the venue and jumps from scene to scene, showing all of the different situations that go into live music production (i.e. setting up equipment, dealing with promoters, etc.) as opposed to music industry, as witnessed on the now canceled Vinyl.
Much of Roadies‘ characters give exposition on their lives, experiences, backgrounds and such. But, let’s get on to what really matters: the execution. Despite the perfect director connection, it’s often difficult to see what this show is trying to be. I’m not quite sure if Crowe knows either when he wrote it. It’s not very funny. There’s some drama and decent storytelling, as well, but it just feels.. flat. Characters talk about being inspired and what makes them feel alive but none of their speeches hit me. I feel like just I’m watching a TV show, rather than feeling fully engrossed into something really happening.
Now as for the second episode, the tour stops off in Memphis with the continuing annoyance of corporate stooge, Reg (Prometheus’ Rafe Spall). Due to budgetary reasons, he’s conducting interviews to see who can stay, which offers–at the very least–some brief but enjoyable moments from supporting cast members Donna (GoT’s Keisha Castle-Hughes) and Harvey (SNL alum Finesse Mitchell). Unfortunately, this week seemed to fly around in the wind like that bag that Wes Bentley couldn’t stop being obsessed with in American Beauty; there is so very little duct tape holding this show together as a cohesive unit.
Wilson, again with just more of his mopey and dorky self, makes me wish he’d leave a scene the second he whines his first words. Very few of the characters have any identity or motivations this side of the previous examples and the diamond-in-the-yawn of Imogen Poots‘ Kelly Ann (Popstar) — easily the best and most emotionally complicated character, which seems like the only one Cameron Crowe wanted to put any effort into developing. Poots, who also had the best monologue of the pilot, is given a large voice in wanting to move onto filmmaking and leave the tour. Every time a scene is focused on her, she radiates with internal struggle and confusion.
Roadies, point blank, is a toughie. The massive talent involved prevents this from being a bad show; it’s just an underwhelming one, coming from the camp of Crowe and Abrams. I am so holding on for this show to get better. But if it doesn’t soon, I might just let it go on to the next gig without me.