I’ve been super excited about the concept of Roadies for almost a decade. When I first heard Cameron Crowe was doing a show centered around the music industry, and Zooey Deschanel was attached to the project, I was beyond excited. Now this was pre-New Girl Zooey Deschanel when she still oozed indie cool from every pore. You know the girl who melted the camera and stole our collective hearts in 500 Days of Summer?
Like most great TV concepts, it disappeared into the ether as I heard Zooey was attached to the pale, road kill New Girl. Network television. What do you do? This summer, Roadies magically resurfaced to become a thing on Showtime with Cameron Crowe spearheading the attack. Crowe, the brilliant mind who brought us Almost Famous, Say Anything and Jerry MaGuire, has garnered a lot of latitude in my book. Unfortunately, he badly needed it with Roadies first aired.
The cast was uninspiring (headed by Luke Wilson, Carla Gugino & Imogen Poots). The concept wasn’t quite as electric as I’d first pieced it together in my head. The writing was just so so. Imagine my shock at the realization that Cameron Crowe had been busy clicking away at his typewriter as the writer-director of the series only to find out this was the result. Well, he was the guy who also gave us Elizabethtown and Aloha. No one is perfect.
Just when I was getting ready to throw in the towel on Roadies a funny thing happened. A few weeks ago, that corpse on a table started to breathe its first breath. Suddenly, the writing had depth. The characters started finding their missing chemistry (Bill & Shelli). The show had become several shades of interesting. What changed? I’m one of those strange souls that like to watch the credits. Sometimes curious things pop up like the face of Janine looked so familiar because, of course, she was Joy Williams of the now defunct Civil Wars. During one of these dives into the credits, I noticed Cameron Crowe had abdicated he role as writer – director of the series. Strangely enough, it also coincided with when it started to find its footing.
This is a pretty common practice. David Chase stepped in to construct important episodes of The Sopranos. Matthew Weiner pulled double duty on many a Mad Men episode to drive Donald Draper to the edge of the cliff without going off it. Why wouldn’t we believe Cameron Crowe had the same magic?
The only problem is it never materialized. I think Crowe did have a solid concept at the core of Roadies. People love music and are fascinated by the complex and messy lives of musicians. Here’s looking at you Kanye. Cameron has built this show to be an homage to music. Every episode comes packed with a must listen soundtrack from beginning to end. Having a new guest musician show up each week to open for the Staten House Band is a stroke of genius. Whether its iconic voices like Lindsey Buckingham and Jim James (My Morning Jacket) or relatively new gems like Halsey and Reignwolf, nothing says I love music like letting musicians do what they do best.
So what are we to make of this? I think when Cameron Crowe pours his heart and soul into a project, it shows. That doesn’t mean his execution always hits the mark, but you can see the passion and soul glimmering through.
For all its improvements, Roadies is still far from a must-watch show or even a lock for a season two renewal. The romantic angle they are trying to push between Reg and Kelly Ann just isn’t believable. I’ll take it a step further and say that Imogen Poots isn’t sealing the deal in that co-leading lady spot yet. It kind of makes me wish I didn’t know Zooey Deshanel is occupying that role in some parallel universe. The show is also lacking an identity. What does it want to be? Where are we going? It has shown considerable growth and promise the last few episodes, but I still don’t feel like we’ve got a foundation to work off of. HBO’s Vinyl didn’t survive past its first season so it will be interesting to see if Roadies can drive hard to the finale to keep the music going.
So what do you think? Is Roadies just a great idea from Cameron Crowe during his halcyon days, or does he still have it and I’m simply too dense to see it? Make your voice heard. Hit us up with your comments below.