Adapted by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (“The Disaster Artist”) from Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel, “Daisy Jones & the Six” is a soap opera wrapped in a behind-the-scenes period musical. Set largely in the 1970s, the novel is presented as an oral history, the story of the slow, then rapid rise and sudden fall of a rock band. The 10-episode series, which premieres Friday on Amazon Prime Video, echoes with documentary framing, meaning the action is interspersed with scenes in which the characters respond to an interviewer 20 years in the future (late the 90s, saving production). team the trouble of aging the characters by half a century).
If it gains an actual soundtrack, the book loses something in translation, as the viewpoints of multiple narrators are largely melded into one straightforward narrative. Reid’s approach also means there isn’t much dialogue on the page, so the adaptation is largely a matter of extrapolation and elaboration, with changes and additions to make it more conventionally dramatic, more like a TV series. And as a TV series, it’s perfectly fine, in a paradoxically low-voltage, high-intensity kind of way, even if it’s a little long and requires a willing suspension of disbelief.
Riley Keough plays Daisy, a poor little rich girl from the Hollywood Hills, who we first meet hanging around the Sunset Strip as a teenager in the late 1960s, getting into trouble more implied than shown. Later, she begins to scribble her deepest thoughts into lyrics and turns her lyrics into songs. (She felt “even better than drugs,” future Daisy recalls.)
Meanwhile, in suburban Pittsburgh, working-class Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin) is convinced to join his younger brother Graham’s (Will Harrison) garage band; They play proms, parties, and local bars until a chance meeting with an LA-based tour manager (a funny, funny-wigged Timothy Olyphant as Rod) gives them the idea to move to California, along with Billy’s girlfriend, Camila (Camila Morrone).
A famous record producer, Teddy Price (Tom Wright), independently impressed by Daisy and Billy’s band, brings them together, against Billy’s will. But a hit single makes it inevitable for her to join the Six, and things progress, regress, deviate, and become a mess from there.
The group that seems to have inspired Reid is Fleetwood Mac, which, with its shifting intramural love affairs, various drug problems, and control issues—the most soap opera of many rock operas—was a romance novel/miniseries waiting to happen. .
There is no attempt here to replicate that band’s more subtle and mellow sound (the Six’s music tends to be bombastic) or their long and complicated history, other than perhaps being the story of a blues-based band becoming famous after adding California folk to the mix. .
There’s no one-to-one correspondence between the members, either, even if Keough, twirling in his gauzy stage crew, channels a bit of Stevie Nicks, and Claflin is pretty much the group’s controlling Lindsey Buckingham, and Suki Waterhouse. Karen, like Christine McVie, is an English keyboardist. Still, he’d be very surprised if Keough and Claflin hadn’t studied the live video of Stevie and Lindsey looking into each other’s eyes. “Silver Springs”.
The series expands on the role of Daisy’s friend Simone (Nabiyah Be), described as a “disco trailblazer”, who in the book primarily serves as a witness to Daisy’s misadventures. Here she has her own thread, including a romance, while producer Teddy is given extra motivation: she needs a hit after several misses. (His characters of him also give the series some ethnic diversity.)
Camila, who is an important voice in the book but has little to do besides keep her marriage and family together, here becomes a photographer. And a short passage of the novel set in Thailand becomes a long one set in Greece.
Having Patti Smith’s “Dancing Barefoot” serve as the show’s theme song underscores the fact that this is primarily Daisy and Camila’s story, focused on women in music and the world, and what is expected of them. (“I’m not the muse,” insists Daisy, whose beauty makes men want to possess her. “I’m someone.”) As underdog heroines, harassed and exploited even when they’re adored, the female characters and actors make a stronger impression than the men: Keough and Monroe, especially, but Waterhouse and Be in their smaller parts, too.
Though the music is obviously a hook and provides a stage on which sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll can roam free, the series is littered with well-crafted tropes from a century of showbiz drama: the creator tortured, uncompromising vision. , the race cursed by addiction, sexual attraction between creative partners, art versus commerce, art versus life.
One reason these tropes exist, of course, is that there’s some truth to them: numerous episodes of “Behind the Music” have taught us that pop bands experience moments of dysfunction, to put it mildly. And as someone who’s had the opportunity to travel with a band, in vans and buses, I can tell you that even the best of friends can get nervous when they’re cooped up indoors for weeks on end and the lead guitarist refuses. to lower or move his and even a foot out of his way.
Most of the kinds of characters and incidents in “Daisy Jones,” outrageous or banal, have had their equivalents (and worse) in the world of real rock, which doesn’t make the series itself feel especially real.
Still, in an attempt to blur the line between fictional and real, two songs from the band’s album “Aurora” were pre-released on music streaming platforms.
This isn’t a new tactic: “The Monkees” were created in part as a machine to sell records that would, in turn, promote the TV show. But the Monkees also became a real band with contemporary hits, and one that continued to record new music in 2018, while Daisy Jones & the Six is a generic retro pastiche, their music cobbled together from ’70s folk rock strains. ., with the help of Phoebe Bridgers, Marcus Mumford and Jackson Browne.
The songs are catchy, if you listen to them enough, but it takes a bit of imagination to accept the Six as “one of the biggest bands in the world,” or to invest in what we must take as the powerful chemistry between Billy, who is a bit like a pill, and Daisy, who is generally sunny, despite her lack of impulse control and the occasional drug montage.
Whether you buy her as a rock goddess or not, Keough makes a strong impression as a wayward free spirit. (Claflin, if only because her character spends much of the series angry or miserable, is not good company.)
There’s a tendency to make the music seem more pivotal than funny (it’s drama, so I guess the dramatic stuff takes precedence), but there are moments of genuine spirit, perhaps most notably a group singing Ronnie’s “Ooh La La.” Lane giving Waterhouse Karen is more of a center of attention than her bandmates.
Interestingly, when it comes to pop music, comedy tends to tell the story better than drama; what a game like clichés when taken directly as the satire of the medium invites so easily.
One episode of “Girls5eva” will tell you more about the music business than 10 episodes of “Daisy Jones,” and “We Are Lady Parts” makes a better argument for why one might want to be in a band. “That Thing You Do” shares more than a few plot points with “Daisy Jones,” with the advantage of not having to overplay the importance of the Wonders. And “Spinal Tap” is still the gospel among musicians: “puppet show” is an abbreviation that every performing musician understands.
“Daisy Jones & the Six” is best seen as a somewhat sensational romance only incidentally over music, an acted-out beach read about big egos in hate and love, and ultimately about sobriety, family. and, above all, fidelity.
‘Daisy Jones and the Six’
Where: first video
Classification: 16+ (may not be suitable for children under 16 with warnings about substance abuse, alcohol use, smoking, violence, sex and foul language)