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These days there are lots of writers dreaming about contributing to the seemingly endless need for new television programs; new networks and streaming services seem to be popping up all the time and they are sure to need content. And into this new content once again the writers/show runners and powers-that-be try to take on the world of rock and roll…and once again fail.
The fate of H.B.O.’s “Vinyl” sealed just a few weeks ago (it was cancelled after only one season), Denis Leary revealing his limp song-ed 2nd season of “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” and Cameron Crowe debuting “Roadies” just recently (and these are just the American T.V. offerings) make it painfully clear in 2016, as in any year in the past, that rock and roll and television do not mix. A subjective opinion, certainly (and I watched all of Vinyl,” have tuned in and will continue to for “Roadies,” as well as for “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll”…though I could never actually tell you why I watch) but in trying to portray the very insular weird world of the slicing serpent’s tail end of the music business, television has always and will continue to always, fall short.
As with any entertainment where characters populate the media, we need interesting characters, not caricatures here. In Leary’s defense, his mining of caricature on “S&D,” and the fact that each of his episodes is only a half hour long, makes his offering inoffensive at best. Still, there are too many smarmy clichés in this program, the characters never live up to the potential of their supposed depths and as I mentioned, the songs are God awful, douche-chill inducing insipid nuggets of self-absorption.
You’d think Cameron Crowe’s offering would be better. This is a man who lived this stuff from a very early age (as his brilliant “Almost Famous” reveals…rock and roll does work in movies, where there are only ninety or so minutes to tell the tale and then get the hell out of dodge.) But Crowe has nothing much to say in “Roadies,” the banter we have heard too many times before, and the circumstances and inside intrigues are figured out within minutes.
“Vinyl” was just too bad to even comment on, and it had Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger producing. If these two can’t pull off rock and roll on T.V. (and in the freer cable environs of H.B.O., no less) then nobody is going to be able to, I fear.
As video certainly killed the radio star (and we are all still paying for the culture-killing debacle that was MTV) television almost always will lay waste to fictionalized rock and roll programming. The only time I ever truly saw rock and roll and television work was when dear old Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the rock group Queen, would thrust his mike stand so far away from his face while obviously lip syncing in one of the group’s videos you couldn’t help but laugh at the statement he was making on how obviously silly rock music in such a visual medium was.
Once again, we can learn well from Freddie Mercury; rock and roll and television do not mix.