WHAT IT’S ABOUT The road crew of the (fictional) Staton-House band is a rollicking group of misfits and music junkies who are also a self-styled “family” dedicated to their band and each other. They include tour manager Bill Hanson (Luke Wilson), production manager Shelli Anderson (Carla Gugino) and Kelly Ann (Imogen Poots), a would-be film producer who loves the music, too, if not quite the career. Then financial “adviser” Reg Whitehead (Rafe Spall) comes into their midst. The show comes from Cameron Crowe, the music journalist-turned-movie director (“Almost Famous”).
MY SAY Attention should be paid whenever an Oscar-winning, “Almost Famous”-directing, Pearl Jam-hanging, cult movie-writing star decides to lend his considerable talents to TV.
Cameron Crowe’s first TV series is also about a subject he knows well, even intimately. Crowe has probably spent half a professional life reporting or rolling cameras backstage at concerts. He understands roadies’ value to that whole thing known as the “concert experience” — those manifold details from amplifier placement to lighting that turn a performance into a show, and sometimes make the difference between either a good or mediocre one. He knows that roadies are characters writ large, or writ colorfully, or writ crazily. They have their own lives, passions, faults and idiosyncrasies.
They also must — or at least should — be the perfect subjects of a prime-time series.
Must, should or: Maybe not, or otherwise “to be determined.”
Showtime posted the “Roadies” pilot free online days before Sunday’s premiere, so some viewers may have formed their opinions already. Mine is that “Roadies” demands you care about characters before you even get to know them, or — once getting to know them — decide they might not have been worth the effort after all.
Bill Hanson’s sexual adventures with barely legal groupies would appear to settle that matter with him (he’s a tiresome jerk). Shelli’s tolerance of his behavior is inexplicable. Kelly Ann is self-important and aggressively unlikeable; Reg is insecure and obnoxious. The list thins.
Seattle’s indie rock band The Head and the Heart essentially fronts the fictional Staton-House Band, but you start to wonder why they or Crowe even bothered. The Head and The Heart do appear (in the pilot) briefly, while their fictional counterpart warms up with a few chords at pilot’s end.
Music is mostly incidental here, or beside the point — a sonic prop to the roadies themselves. But surely Crowe knows better than anyone that music is the whole point.
BOTTOM LINE Unlikeable characters fill the foreground, while an unfocused music track fills the background.