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Roadies: Life is a Carnival (Pilot)

Cameron Crowe—the man behind Singles, Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous and a few other movies that weren’t that good—has created a ten-episode TV series for Showtime. Although the show doesn't premiere until June 26th, the pilot episode is available online. It is adorable.

Roadies is about the behind-the-scenes folks who make big concerts happen. They’re on tour with the fictional Staton-House Band, a big-ticket arena act with an established audience. But what happens onstage only matters as far as it affects the backstagers, who are the stars of this show: tour manager Bill (Luke Wilson), production manager Shelli (Carla Gugino), and assorted roadies and techs played by, among others, Imogen Poots and Colson Baker (who raps as Machine Gun Kelly in real life).

Sex, music, skateboarding, stealing from Hurricane Katrina victims, and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready’s sobriety are all punchlines and plotpoints in this episode, which centers on the crew’s attempt to put together yet another concert without any fireworks or stalker-related incidents, amid a record-label corporate restructuring. Along the way, we get to see how the various characters interact, from the complex sibling relationship between Kelly Ann and Wes to the just-do-it-already tension between Shelli and Bill.

Crowe plays to all of his strengths here: his love of music is apparent in both the soundtrack and the few moments when we get to see real bands play—or at least sing—onscreen. Although some of his more recent movies, such as Aloha, have been awful, Crowe always succeeds at nailing the vernacular of twenty- and thirty-something outsiders who just want to love music and be loved by someone else in return: quips, pop culture references, and bittersweet loneliness are the currency he uses to pay his way.

The general conceit of the show, as far as I can tell from the pilot episode, is a plucky band of outsiders brought together due to the common love of music, who gradually develop a common love for one another. That just might be my favorite structure in the world: everything from Buffy to The Usual Suspects follows that pattern, which is ripe for potential adaptation across, I hope, many seasons.

Because this is, at heart, an adorable show. There will be strife, there will be sadness. I suspect the remaining nine episodes will allow Crowe to do some of his best work, accompanied by some of the best music. But hopefully not fireworks.

Power Chords:

• My first Cameron Crowe movie was Singles: I saw it just as I was discovering the world of grunge, in 1992, and it left a lasting impression on me. I still have the soundtrack on CD and I listen to it quite often. (Who doesn’t love Mother Love Bone?)

• Given my affection for grunge, it’s probably no surprise that the jokes about Pearl Jam, and their incredibly awesome lead guitarist Mike McCready, were some of the highlights of this episode. Crowe featured a few members of Pearl Jam in Singles (not McCready, though) and directed a documentary about the band, Pearl Jam Twenty, that is quite good.

• At first, Imogen Poots’ character Kelly Ann drove me a bit crazy, since the skateboarding seemed like an affectation. But I came to love her.

• Ditto Wes, especially in his role as the new manny.

Three and a half out of four fireworks.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

1 comment:

  1. You forgot Say Anything... I love Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire and all, but that is an '80s classic.


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