|Worth seeing:||as an easy but not particularly surprising watch, following the rise and fall of a fictitious 1970s American rock band|
|Featuring:||Riley Keough, Sam Claflin, Sebastian Chacon, Suki Waterhouse, Will Harrison, Ayesha Harris, Camila Morrone, Gavin Drea, Jack Romano, Josh Whitehouse, Nabiyah Be, Seychelle Gabriel, Timothy Olyphant, Tom Wright|
|Key crew:||James Ponsoldt, Nzingha Stewart, Will Graham, Amanda Kay Price, Josie Craven, Reese Witherspoon, Charmaine De Grate, Michael H Weber, Scott Neustadter, Taylor Jenkins Reid|
|Broadcast date:||3rd - 24th March 2023|
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
In the late 1960s, Daisy Jones estranges herself from her wealthy mother and tries to make a life for herself as a singer and songwriter on the Los Angeles club scene.
In Pittsburgh, Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin) and his younger brother Graham (Will Harrison) start a rock band with their friends. An encounter with tour manager Rod Reyes (Timothy Olyphant) persuades them to up sticks and head for the West Coast.
By the early 1970s, both Daisy and the band – now calling themselves The Six – are working with the same record producer, Teddy Price (Tom Wright) and he decides to bring the two acts together.
Wary of ceding creative control to each other, the pairing gets off to a slow and uncomfortable start, but soon their debut album hits number one in the charts and they’re performing sell-out stadium gigs.
But almost as suddenly, tensions within the band – and their entourage – rip Daisy Jones and the Six apart – until they split up and never perform together again.
Twenty years later, the band members take part in a documentary, giving their recollections of what went right – and how it all went wrong.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Amazon Prime’s 10-part drama – based on the award-winning novel of the same name by Taylor Jenkins Reid – studies the issues of ambition and competition, told through the world of 1970s folk rock.
We’re told in the opening scene that this particular gig – the culmination of the tour for their debut album – was to be their final performance together, so we know we have 10 episodes to find out what went wrong.
We actually spend most of that time watching the building – how the two acts started to build a following – how their popularity soared when they were put together – how an inevitable but creatively crucial love-hate relationship grew between Daisy and Billy – as Billy’s wife Camila looked on helplessly from the side-lines.
We see members of the band and their entourage falling in and out of love with each other – or people outside the group – and we see how creative ambitions or differences – lead to clashes that jeopardise the whole project.
With all the pieces in place, it doesn’t really come as much of a surprise when you find out how the band eventually fractured – something that almost comes out of nowhere in the final episode and a half. Up until that point, you can see all the tensions, but you just assume they’ll be mature and get over it.
But petulant rock stars with addictive personalities and a drive to be the best don’t necessarily make the best decisions.
That said, this isn’t the kind of debauched behaviour you’d expect from some of the real-life rock legends of the time; one character has a drink problem that’s largely under control – another takes too many drugs but the rest are about as rock-n-roll as a primary school teacher, which makes for a perfectly easy watch – a comfortable, if not particularly thrilling, ride through the surprisingly polite world of 1970s country-infused rock – inspired, says the novel’s author, by the music – if not the behaviour – of Fleetwood Mac. Much of the shenanigans feels like its been taken out of a soap-opera, and rather than watching a no-holds-barred study of the rise and fall of a group of rock stars, it’s feels more like we’re in a musical version of This Is Us.
The performances can’t be faulted – but most of the characters aren’t really that interesting – and Daisy herself comes across as rather selfish and entitled, making it hard to care too much about her.
The story unfolds through late 1990s interviews and flashbacks to the 1970s – but given that there’s a 20 year gap in between, we learn little more from the interviews about what’s happened in the meantime than what another 1970s-based production might have confined to a set of captions for each character over a closing musical montage. We don’t learn whether any of the characters who fell out, have fallen back in with each other again – we don’t get a sense of the band’s own legacy or whether their experiences in the band helped or hampered the individual careers that followed.
Looking back on the events of 20 years earlier should offer the characters more of an opportunity to be reflective, but rather than being treated as commentators, they’re simply acting as narrators, and we see what actually happened in flashback anyway.
With the 10 episodes released in batches over a three week period, it’s a largely entertaining experience – especially if this is your kind of music, because there is a lot of music – but it’s a little underwhelming emotionally, with few real surprises – and the rather arch structure doesn’t seem to add enough to the storytelling.