A few months ago I was lucky enough to win a backstage tour at Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour. Behind the scenes at Rod Laver Arena I saw a mini-city that had been trucked in with rigging, staging, lighting, costumes, technical and storage. There were dancers chilling in hammocks underneath the stage, just a pirouette away from springing to life before a frenzied crowd.
I was reminded of it all whilst watching the first episode of Roadies, the new Showtime drama from Cameron Crowe, coming to Stan.
The 10 part series definitely has the ring of authenticity about it when it comes to recreating the concert world.
Crowe, who has been a contributing editor to Rolling Stone, is well-regarded for Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Now he returns to the rock arena for a series about those who keep the show on the road, literally.
The central character is Bill (Luke Wilson), the tour manager of The Staton-House Band. The series opens with him in a naked romp with a young girl, who turns out to be the daughter of his promoter.
Admonishing his basic instincts and trying to stick to schedule is production manager Shelli (Carla Gugino). Like many of her gypsy colleagues, her husband is also on the road with Taylor Swift, leaving her to focus on work instead of their enforced separation.
Skateboard-riding rigger Kelly Ann (Imogen Poots) is ready to farewell this close-knit world for her shot as a film school student, while numbers-cruncher Reg (Rafe Spall) is set to cut loose staff, including veteran Phil (Ron White) and shut down costs. But he is a corporate outsider amongst this circle, who literally hold hands in bonding sessions before mounting their next show in a New Orleans arena.
Somewhere just out of reach is the band Staten-House, who become support players arriving in SUVs, in this backstage drama.
There is also stalker fan Natalie (Jacqueline Byers), plus Kelly Ann’s brother Wes (Colson Baker) and sound engineer Donna (NZ actress Keisha Castle-Hughes).
As the crew build everything for showtime, various dramas unfold including the fallout from Bill’s sexual tryst, the stalker’s secret raid to reach her star’s dressing room, Reg’s new austerity measures and, principally, Kelly Ann’s torn emotions in leaving her friends to pursue her own dreams.
Underneath the rigging and staging it all looks like the real deal: there are mountains of equipment, buses, golf carts, 2 way radios, food trucks and cables. If it weren’t for the scripted dialogue, you could be looking at a DVD extra from a Springsteen or Eagles concert. But it never quite hits the dramatic target of Nashville or even the recently-axed Vinyl.
Bill is a bit of a sad sack hero, ably-supported by Carla Gugino, but struggling to pull off the unresolved sexual tension the show is clearly working towards. The stand-out is Imogen Poots as the rigger with a heart, in a role that will remind many of Kate Hudson in Crowe’s own Almost Famous.
The best moment is reserved for a cinematic-ending I won’t give away, but overall this doesn’t feel either dramatic enough to be memorable, nor funny enough to sustain as dramedy.
Unless it makes some bolder moves in its storytelling I feel like this view into the world of Roadies would have been more effective as a documentary after all.
Right now it just feels like a support act for the main event.
Roadies begins Monday on Stan.