Rebecca Barry Hill: Roadies is a lacklustre gig

A scene from Roadies. Photo / Showtime
A scene from Roadies. Photo / Showtime

Sex, drugs and rock'n'roll? Well, moments into Roadies (8.30pm Mondays, SoHo), Cameron Crowe and J.J. Abrams' new 10-part comedy series, tour manager Bill (Luke Wilson, 44) sleeps with a 19-year-old girl. A few scenes later a young woman does things with a microphone that have nothing to do with music. But if you're wondering how wild it really is, look no further than the name of the pilot's Scottish guest stars. Frightened Rabbit aren't exactly the ear-shredding, guitar-hurling types and neither is the fictional Staton-House Band, with their hipster haircuts and charmless personalities.

But Roadies isn't about the bands. It's about the "family" as they're frequently referred to, who keep them in business. They're the light-riggers, technicians and music-loving managers who ensure the tour bus rolls between cities, the band are looked after and the fans get what they've paid for. Crowe attempts to do the same, calling on Pearl Jam's Mike McCready to contribute to the soundtrack, and referencing real-life moments in history, such as Freddie Mercury's apparent rage at fingerprints on his piano.

But it's no Almost Famous, Crowe's funny and memorable coming-of-age tale inspired by his transgressions as a rookie Rolling Stone reporter. There's just something a little sterile and safe about this version, not to mention meandering and unfocused.


So far, the crew's unglamorous roles don't exactly make for must-watch television - unless you count Keisha Castle-Hughes' sound engineer, who has blue hair and twiddles dials. But that shouldn't matter if the characters are memorable. Take Wilson and his cohort, production manager Carla Gugino as gig producer Shelli. When they're not dodging their sparkless romantic history, they're busy wandering around the empty arena, arguing with the rest of management, without really revealing much of themselves other than Bill's thing for younger women.

Thank goodness then for Phil (Ron White), the resident old-school roadie and felon, who chastises his proteges for their lack of Lynyrd Skynyrd knowledge, and Kelly Ann (Imogen Poots), a feisty young gaffer who skateboards her way around the scaffolding, and who stands up to the new British bean-counter (Rafe Spall), who has been brought on to the tour to rein in any chance of expensive fun.

That's exactly what's lacking here. For what is supposedly a comedy, executive produced by the guy who reinvigorated both Star Trek and Star Wars, Roadies barely raises a laugh, let alone your pulse. It also feels trapped in the wrong period. Crowe has a clear fondness for the 90s, what with all the Pearl Jam and the pilot's oddly jarring montage thrown together from that era. So the love is there, but like a lacklustre gig by your old favourite band, it's hard to know why you should stick around.

Surely we'll find in upcoming episodes that there's more for the leads to worry about than your 20-something worker bee running off to New York to become a film-maker, your producer selling out by joining Taylor Swift's crew, or some horny groupie running amok backstage.

If you were expecting an exhilarating, even mildly amusing glimpse into the supposedly hallowed off-limits world of the big-arena rock tour, you'd be disappointed. So far, it's not worth stealing a laminate for.

- Weekend magazine

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