Hit or Sh**: Showtime’s ROADIES

In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.

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I didn’t like ALMOST FAMOUS the first time I watched it. Having heard its praises sung by peers and adults alike, I was disappointed in how saccharine, shallow, and sentimental it felt. But then I stepped back and realized that that may have been the point. Considering the fact that the main character is a teenaged boy, the wonder and scope of being able to tour with a popular band would dwarf all genuine emotion in some respects, existing as a “highlight reel” of sorts upon reflection. As such, I could then appreciate the film as a parallel to the childlike wonder and nostalgia experienced by the characters, made all the more poignant by the fact that Cameron Crowe was a boy wonder writing for Rolling Stone. And then there’s ROADIES.

Peter Cambor as Milo, Colson Baker as Wes, Finesse Mitchell as Harvey, Rafe Spall as Reg, Imogen Poots as Kelly Ann, Luke Wilson as Bill Hanson, Carla Gugino as Shelli Anderson and Keisha Castle-Hughes as Donna in Roadies. Photo: Courtesy of SHOWTIME

You can feel the musical taste emanating off of them

As I can faithfully report from the front, a lot of the pilots out there lack tonal consistency. It can’t be said that ROADIES doesn’t have a consistent tone, but it’s not particularly flattering that that tone is “sad middle-aged man desperately clinging onto the fact that he LOVES MUSIC, and don’t you say otherwise.” It would appear that after his recent, rapidly dwindling relevance, Crowe tried to return to his roots in feel-good stories that revolve around Real Rock ‘N’ Roll Music. However, considering that the sentiments of ALMOST FAMOUS haven’t changed but 16 years have, it’s just as uncomfortable as the opening scene of ROADIES, wherein Luke Wilson brings an 18-year-old Asian girl to orgasm. Characters walk around awkwardly proclaiming their love for B.B. King, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, and every other artist folks that are too scared of black people to listen to hip hop like, all with an utter lack of cohesion or any actual relevance to the events transpiring on screen. However, the most painful scene in that regard is when Machine Gun Kelly (???) calls Imogen Poots crying about how he was fired by Pearl Jam. PEARL. JAM. Someone in their late 20s was heartbroken when PEARL JAM dumped them. I can’t imagine anything more out of touch.

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Jesus Christ, just look at that poor, sad old man on the far right!!!

Its absolutely disingenuous love of Real Rock N’ Roll Music aside, the pilot doesn’t even begin to function on a story level. Imogen Poots wants to go to Film School In New York (which she doesn’t hesitate to remind us of upwards of five times) and is leaving her beloved roadie crew. Or at least that would be what would contribute to a plotline of some narrative heft, but Imogen Poots is introduced to us saying how much she wants to leave and how she doesn’t really like anybody all that much, which primes us to root for her to leave. And then nothing really happens that would convince her to stay, but you can betcha that she does! A grumpy suit played by Rafe Spall comes in and starts harshing everyone’s vibes with budget cuts, which prompts Imogen Poots to scold him for not having a love for Real Rock N’ Roll Music, and I guess that she was so turned on by the danger of wielding the power of Real Rock N’ Roll Music that she elects to stay? Then Luke Wilson slams a raspberry pie into her face which sweetens the pot? Then a member of the band that she’s crewing for says that he’s changing up the setlist and she can’t even fathom the thought of leaving anymore? Oh, also, Imogen Poots’s video application for Film School in New York consists of a supercut of characters running, as it shows that tracking shots are cheap emotional substitutes that cause audience members to automatically feel that something big SHOULD be happening, something something character, something something identity. And yes, her frantic sprint back to the roadie crew IS intercut with the tracking shots of characters running, if you were wondering.

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The subplots, despite the fact that they may as well be main plots considering the fact that they’re just as catered to as Imogen Poots’ Film School in New York plot, fare no better. The father of the teenager that Luke Wilson gave the business to is understandably mad and tries to cancel the band’s show, but Luke Wilson’s Definitely Not Romantic Interest Carla Gugino manages to throw water on the fire with almost no extraneous effort. Rafe Spall fires grizzled, lovable veteran roadie Ron White (but not after Ron White ups the ante from Real Rock N’ Roll Music to Rock N’ Roll Music IN AMERICA), and then Luke Wilson tells us in the following scene that Ron White has already found employment crewing for Taylor Swift. There are no stakes, no personal investment, and no interest anywhere to be found. There is, however, a crazed stalker that has sex with a security guard so that she can sneak into the dressing of the singer of The Staton-House Band, wherein she proceeds to deep throat the microphone used in Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” that was given to the singer by The Boss. This was the only subplot I could relate to.

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Certain things don’t completely suck. Luke Wilson, never mind his uneasy preference for jail bait, successfully delivers as a bumbling career roadie that has a genuine passion for what he does and will stick to his sinking ship in the face of progressively less pay and the dissolution of his dreams. In addition, the hair-pulling scene where he delivers bootleg copies of Bob Dylan and Sleater-Kinney like some kind of hipster tattooed Legolas aside, Machine Gun Kelly is a surprisingly capable actor and is one of the few not cursed with having to deliver cancer-patient lines of dialogue. In addition, Adam Sandler’s Mexican Friend ends up being the most subtle character from the pilot as the tour bus driver, which is a good sign for his career and a bad sign for the series.

ROADIES isn’t entertaining, isn’t funny, and feels like the nostalgic fever dreams of your sad, single uncle who was in a bar band in the 70s. You’ll laugh, but it will be at the roadie crew making fun of Rafe Spall for liking “The Mumford Sons” when THEY LOVE MOTHERFUCKING PEARL JAM, or the drummer for the bizarrely-featured indie folk band The Head and the Heart playing a simple snare and hi-hat beat with marimba mallets instead of drum sticks, and not for any tangible sense of wit or intelligence from the writing. This is a pissing contest to see which character can say they love Real Rock N’ Roll Music the loudest, and unless you’re a boring dad, you’re better off just listening to THE WALL and calling it a day.

Verdict: Sh**

ROADIES airs on Sundays on SHOWTIME

Crossfader is the brainchild of Thomas Seraydarian, and he acts as Editor-in-Chief.

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