June 25, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Roadies”


ROADIES:  Sunday 10PM on Showtime – In the Queue

Showtime’s ROADIES is the first small-screen project from Cameron Crowe (he wrote and directed the pilot, and is showrunner with My So Called-Life‘s Winnie Holzman), and it’s very much a distillation of everything that makes his filmmaking exhilarating and frustrating.  There’s the wholehearted affection he has for his characters and the world in general, his utterly sincere romanticism, his willingness to provide space for his people to bloom with all their quirks preserved–but also his slack storytelling, and over-indulgence of second-rate sentimentality and schtick.

And the music, of course, which for Crowe is not just a religion, but a faith-healing one, able to change a listener’s life and repair their soul with a single song.  Roadies occupies a universe alongside his masterpiece, if not his biggest hit, 2000’s Almost Famous.  Here, instead of groupies and journalists, the focus is on the crew that keeps a rock tour going, in this case the fictional (and barely seen in the pilot) Staton-House Band.  The crew is led by platonic mom and dad–she’s in a long-distance marriage to a manager on the Taylor Swift tour, he’s been drowning his sorrows over being dumped by a longtime girlfriend with young one-night stands–Shelli (Carla Gugino) and Bill (Luke Wilson), who’ve seen it all but retain their love of the journey, even if they constantly grouse about it.  At the heart of Roadies, though, at least in the pilot, is Kelly Ann (a radiant Imogen Poots), Crowe’s surrogate transformed into a hot girl (but the kind who doesn’t notice her own beauty) technician, who pretends to be hard-bitten and just a temp on the tour (she swears that she’s headed for film school in New York), but who melts when the band begins to play.

The concept behind Roadies seems to be that each week, the tour will arrive at a new arena (with a new real-life opening act, The Head and The Heart in the pilot), set up for that night’s gig and in the course of the hour advance some plotlines while preparing for the (off-screen) show to begin.  As long as Crowe stays with his  three leads, it can be enormously entertaining.  As is often the case with Crowe, however, plot is not his friend.  In the pilot his weak attempt to create some drama is the arrival of Reg (Rafe Spall), a British money guy and efficiency expert who immediately fires a member of the crew and spouts words like “brand.”  But Reg is an musical idiot, not to mention instantly smitten by Kelly Ann–and who can blame him?–so he never establishes himself as any kind of real threat.  An effective pilot is supposed to establish not just milieu and character but story arcs going forward, and the opening hour of Roadies accomplishes little of that.

Crowe also flounders with some silliness, like the crew member from New Jersey who only speaks in a fake English accent, and the very non-Almost Famous groupie who gets past security by offering free sex and is soon fellating a band member’s beloved microphone.  Crowe’s smooth direction gracefully puts us at home throughout the New Orleans arena setting, but there’s little going on in there that’s particularly gripping.

Roadies isn’t a ticket worth buying at scalped prices, but the opening hour merits hanging around for a few stops on the tour.  Poots, who has all the best scenes in the pilot, is marvelous, and Gugino and Wilson have the right kind of bantering charm.  Is amiability enough to draw an audience to Roadies?  It won’t help that the show is coupled with the eternally dour Ray Donovan as a Sunday night mate, or that the premiere airs against the season finales of Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley.  But unlike the infinitely pretentious (and now abruptly canceled) Vinyl, Roadies believes in the joy of rock, and in a TV landscape dotted with self-seriousness, a weekly hour devoted to bliss doesn’t seem like a bad thing.

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."