Cameron Crowe's 'Roadies' hits flat note in Showtime debut

Showtime's Roadies

The mere mention of Cameron Crowe doing his first TV series, "Roadies," surely caused enthusiasm among cultish devotees of "Almost Famous," the writer-director's semi-autobiographical ode to the music industry and fandom.

Still, the initial episodes of this Showtime dramedy never really find their groove, despite appearances by a number of well-known musicians. In that, the show shares a ho-hum quality with "Vinyl," which hit a different but equally deflating rut chronicling the music industry in the swinging '70s.

As with that HBO project, "Roadies'" gaudy creative auspices only magnify the disappointment. Beyond Crowe, who wrote and directed the premiere, the murderer's row of talent on the marquee includes "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" director J.J. Abrams and Winnie Holzman, whose credits include the musical "Wicked" and series "My So-Called Life."

Starring Luke Wilson and Carla Gugino as tour managers whose frequent squabbling seems to hint at a more complicated relationship, "Roadies" isn't bad, exactly. But nor does it feel particularly distinctive or even remotely fresh.

RELATED: HBO cancels 'Vinyl' in about-face from earlier renewal

Indeed, the various flare-ups that occur have a too-familiar quality, and the writing a sitcom-y bent. When Gugino's Shelli meets the big boss after having walked in on Wilson's character in bed with his daughter, she awkwardly tells him the girl is "truly lovely. I saw her naked."

The characters don't really pop either -- again, in part because they feel like such obvious archetypes. That includes the gnarled old pro who has seen and done it all and the wide-eyed newbie, choosing between film school and chasing her dreams in this colorful world.

Crowe clearly possesses a terrific feel for this world's abundant quirks, as well as an inherent love for the music. And it's fun to see performers like Lindsey Buckingham do a little acting before belting out songs. (The Head & The Heart, Reignwolf, Jim James and Lucius are among others slated to appear.)

Cameron Crowe's 'Roadies' premieres on Showtime
Cameron Crowe's 'Roadies' premieres on Showtime

That said, "Roadies" is so light as to feel almost wispy. And the contrast between the show and the grim, brooding drama with which it's being paired, "Ray Donovan," is about as stark a contrast in TV styles as one could imagine -- like Metallica touring with Celine Dion.

As with "Vinyl," the mix of music and drama (or here, mostly comedy) simply doesn't work as well as hoped. And despite the high notes, there are too many places where "Roadies" falls flat.

"The music is good," Shelli counsels one of her young charges. "And you meet some great people."

Judging by "Roadies'" first few sets, that is, alas, about half right.

"Roadies" premieres June 26 on Showtime.


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