August 29, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Roadies”


In recent years, Cameron Crowe has had trouble keeping his scripts coherent even when they only have to last 2 hours.  It probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise that giving him 10 hours to play with was asking for trouble, and much of his Showtime series ROADIES has been unfocused and self-indulgent, a festival of Crowe’s penchants for sentimentality and silly comedy.  Given an opportunity to add depth to his depiction of subjects close to his heart, Crowe brought little insight and no edge at all to his portrayal of the music industry (Almost Famous, itself a nostalgic valentine, was a tell-all expose by comparison), and instead repeated his favorite rom-com and greeting card motifs over and over.

And yet… of the three high-profile series this year about the world of music, Roadies is the one I’ll remember far more fondly than Vinyl or The Get-Down.  (Actually, it’s possible that Roadies will return next season, but the ratings have been terrible and Showtime’s executives have been notably noncommittal when asked.)  Crowe may not, in the end, have much to say, but no one can doubt his heartfelt commitment to what he’s saying, and his love for the milieu and his characters.  Roadies was filled with wonderful acting, from the four leads Luke Wilson, Carla Gugino, Rafe Spall and especially Imogen Poots, and a supporting cast that included Keisha Castle-Hughes, Colson Baker, Peter Cambor, and Ron White.  Crowe, along with his fellow writers, gave them plenty of charming material.  He and the other directors also provided a convincing, enticing new world with each episode, set in a different city and venue on the band’s tour.

It was altogether fitting that tonight’s finale, written by Crowe and showrunner Winnie Holzman, and directed by Crowe, had virtually no plot for the first 45 minutes.  It was devoted instead to an extended memorial service for Roadie In Chief Phil (White), who had been absent for most of the season, fired from the show’s tour for the fictional Staton-House Band, but who returned in time for the show’s best episode, in which he delivered his origin story, and his philosophy (which is presumably also Crowe’s) about music and life itself, on an overnight bus ride, only to die shortly thereafter.  Crowe called in his buddies for the finale, and the list of performers at the fictional funeral started with Eddie Vedder and Jackson Browne, and kept going.  Resolution of the season’s storylines stayed in the background until the final 20 minutes.

What followed was undiluted Cameron Crowe, for better and worse.  He and Holzman beautifully paid off the running bit about Kelly Ann (Poots) feeling like she wasn’t really one of the gang because she had no nickname, a runner that had extended since the pilot, sticking the landing just about perfectly, as Kelly Ann learned that Phil’s final enigmatic word to her was in fact his bestowal of a loving monicker.  This was followed, however, by a sticky-sweet sight gag, in which everyone had to hug dead Phil, who had ordered himself stuffed.  An effective happy ending for Bill (Wilson) and Shelli (Gugino) preceded the mother of all rom-com cliches, as Reg (Spall) realized how much he loved Kelly Ann and the music biz, and literally ran off a plane just before it took off and through an airport to track her down.  (One might have hoped that the more experienced TV hand Holzman would have toned down some of Crowe’s excesses, but apparently her job was just to execute them as effectively as possible.)

Since this was intended as a season finale and not the end of the series, it made sense that much of the conclusion was open-ended, with the Staton-House Band’s very existence up in the air, along with everyone’s jobs.  The fact that characters like Milo (Cambor) and Wes (Baker) were never really developed beyond their initial mannerisms, though, was more of a problem.  The bigger fail was that apart from a couple of broadly-drawn evil moneymen (Brian Benben showed up in the finale as one), Crowe’s view of the music industry went no deeper than that it’s fun to run off with the circus.

No one will blame Showtime for canceling Roadies, which unlike, say, AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, showed no signs even at the end of its season that it knew how to fix its own problems.  Still, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to spend some more time with Kelly Ann and Reg and Bill and Shelli, and the actors who played them, meandering as that time might be.  Roadies wasn’t worth the cover charge, but it played a tune that stuck in your head.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."