Showtime’s “Roadies” Still Tuning


Warning: Spoilers ahead for the first episode of Roadies.

As a Cameron Crowe fan, it’d be an understatement to say I had been excited for Roadies. I’m impatient by nature and waiting for Roadies felt nearly as hard as waiting for Christmas. It was personal for me. Almost Famous was a turning point in my life, and it’s still my go-to on days when I need a little pick-me-up, a reminder of just the kind of passion I have and don’t want to lose.

And Christmas has come, the ham cooked and served, and it’s got potential, I’ll give it that.

But is that enough?

The pilot’s tone was through and through classic Crowe, and let’s not even get started on the killer soundtrack that we knew we could trust him with. It was an hour of rock hits and a formula that we’ve grown to love over the years, (with only a few let downs–dare we mention Aloha?–along the way). But still: it had the heart of Almost Famous, of Jerry Maguire and even Elizabethtown.

It was about passion. It was about finding happy, finding that feeling of home, whatever or wherever the hell it is.

That, it nailed.

Luke Wilson as tour manager Bill is a reminder that it’s not over–he’s our Jerry Maguire. The job was a way of life, and maybe it still is–but he asked for a retainer, and he had a dream house, and maybe it’s more of just a job now. He’s not happy, that’s what we’re getting at. Production manager Shelli (Carla Gugino) points it out to him–him sleeping around with girls barely legal, all of it, the signs point to something missing.

And that something just might be Shelli, who he has undeniable chemistry with. It comes out later that they used to be together, which clicks easily after all the comments Bill makes about Shelli’s husband and how she’s never really interested in or connected with him (while he works on Taylor Swift’s tour). Shelli, meanwhile, it just trying to keep the ship sailing smoothly–she’s the matriarch of it all, and she seems to rule well. She comes off more sure-footed, and while she’s not oozing passionate sonnets about her career, she’s there. She’s loyal and dependable.

Kelly Ann, played by Imogen Poots, positions herself as our main character. Kelly Ann lost it–whatever that passion is, whatever that feeling was. She used to believe in The Staton-House Band that they’re touring with. She used to feel something from them, used to be moved and be sure that this was where she wanted and needed to be.

She doesn’t feel that way anymore. The band seems uninspired, they’ve been roboting their way through the same set list for too long now, and thus, she’s lost the spark. She’s been offered a scholarship to film school in New York, and the pilot centers on her last day on the tour. This is it–she’s decided. She made a short film composed of cuts of movie scenes with characters running away, running toward–regardless, it’s manipulation, she says. The camera makes you think these long runs are longer than they are, more than they are. The character might seem like they’re on a long tunneled journey to destiny, but Kelly Ann says it’s nothing but manipulation. It’s never like that in real life.

Throughout the day, there are some added bits tossed around–Kelly Ann’s twin brother Wesley (Machine Gun Kelly) is dumped by his band, Pearl Jam, and he comes with his cappuccino recipe in tow, despite Kelly Ann telling him not to. (He, of course, is sticking around.)

There’s Reg Whitehead, played by Rafe Spall, the “finance guy” coming in that represents everything we’re supposed to hate–he’s corporate, and all he cares about is business and money. He’s not there for the art, for the music. He’s not there for the feeling–he’s there to cut jobs, to be “the man.” And, off the bat, he is. But brief glimpses and his respect and admiration for Kelly Ann (and her impassioned, badass with a touch of corny speech telling him why they all hate him and what he stands for) tells us maybe, just maybe, he’s not all bad.

Maybe he’ll fall in love with the music, too. After all, it’s why they’re all there. At the end of the day, they love the music. They’re in love with it.

It’s just a question of: is that enough?

Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the rest of the cast of misfit toys. Ron White plays Phil, the seasoned roadie veteran who has toured with the greats and doles out countrified wisdom like mints–before he’s arrested, thanks to Reg. Luis Guzman, always a delight, plays Gooch, who Kelly Ann affectionately quotes Dorothy to (is he her Scarecrow?): “I think I’ll miss you most of all.” Notably, it’s the only real goodbye she gives.

Jacqueline Byers plays The Staton-House Band resident stalker Natalie, who is decidedly not the Penny Lane Band-Aid type of Crowe past, and a little more on the groupie stereotype we’ve all come to know. (Deep throating a microphone seems a little on the less stable side, admittedly. Also sleeping with a security guard for his pass–that’s some dedication, I suppose.) Branscombe Richmond is Puna the bodyguard, stoic and a man of few words, but efficient and not to be messed with, and Peter Cambor is Milo, another roadie who is faking a British accent for unknown reasons and is harboring some sort of feelings for Kelly Ann.

The others we see little of, but I have faith we might catch more glimpses of.

By the end of the episode, Kelly Ann–not a fan of goodbyes or just not caring much for them–is quick to get out of their concert stop, which–while the day may have been filled with hijinx and hurdles galore, went on smoothly.  And Kelly Ann will not be deterred. Bill and his soft spot for her, he made sure she got a pie (in the face) before going, but even he couldn’t convince her to stay.

Only once she was in the parking lot, heading to her cab, a limo pulls up with none other than Christopher House (Tanc Sade), persuading her to stay. They value her, she matters, and they heard her–they’re changing up their setlist, and breathing some life back into their set and their band.

Her voice mattered. And just like that, she gets that feeling back–the feeling that she’s part of something, She runs back toward home (the stadium), just like her film in a saw it coming parallel. She bangs on the door and is immediately asking for her job back. The fire is there, again.

But was it there for us? Is Roadies giving us that feeling that it’s so preaching? Is it TV that we’ll fall in love with, fall hard for?

To be honest, I’m just not sure, yet. Something’s missing, but I know it could be there. Give me more of the actual road crew responsibilities. Hell, give me more of the roadies. Tell me about Donna, about Gooch, about Harvey or any of the rest. Tell me what the hell they did to prepare, because looking back, I’m not sure we really saw any of it. And sure, while we all love a good inspirational pep talk and some good quotes sprinkled here and there, it almost feels overloaded in this pilot.

Stop telling me to feel that feeling, just give it to me.

Listen, I want to love Roadies. I want it to be great, to be what they’re clearly reaching for. But I’m just not sure it’s there, and only time will tell. Bill and Shelli are predictable, and I’m sure it’ll make for a great story–but give me more. Give me more than Kelly Ann has an early 20’s existential crisis–as a twenty-something, I’m telling you, we get them weekly, at least. I want to see this family being a family, more than being told.

I’m holding out hope, but I’m just not sure where Roadies will land. Fingers crossed.

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