As soap operas set against the world of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll go, “Daisy Jones & the Six” is a by-no-means groundbreaking but still-enjoyable account of the best band that never existed, charting its meteoric rise and just-as-abrupt fall. Credit that in part to the cast, starting with Riley Keough, who does her rock lineage and grandpa Elvis proud by belting out the group’s songs.
Each episode (or “track”) uses the title of a vintage song, while employing a faux-documentary-style format as the band members look back, 20 years later, at how they came together in the 1970s, before suddenly breaking up at the top of their game.
The Amazon series is adapted from Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel, which used Fleetwood Mac as a source of inspiration. But the show mostly works by charting its own course, namechecking cultural artifacts of its era (Barry Manilow and “Rollerball” among them) while more narrowly focusing on the band, with all the festering resentments and simmering attractions that go with the creative process.
At the heart of that lies Keough’s Daisy Jones, a musical force with a mercurial temper who, thanks to the insight of a record executive (Tom Wright), is thrown together with up-and-coming band the Six (there are actually five of them), an ambitious group out of Pittsburgh led by frontman Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin).
Billy winds up marrying his girlfriend (Camila Morrone) for the most rock-star-ish of reasons, but it’s difficult to ignore all that sexual tension with Daisy, which adds a combustible quality to their collaborations – both as songwriters and on stage – in the mesh of their sensibilities, while constantly threatening to the group’s interpersonal dynamics.
Then again, that’s only one of the problematic issues baked into the Six’s interactions, with every source of friction exacerbated by the temptations associated with fame and fortune.
“We didn’t really understand addiction back then,” the group’s lead guitarist, Eddie (Josh Whitehouse), acknowledges during the interviews, while Daisy asks the unseen documentarian – having promised to tell her everything – “How much of ‘everything’ do you really want to know?”
Inevitably, “Daisy Jones” feels derivative of any number of rock ‘n’ roll stories, and the egos and excess that go with them, from “Almost Famous” to the last two versions of “A Star is Born” to Tom Hanks’ ode to one-hit wonders “That Thing You Do.”
Fortunately, the characters in this ensemble are strong enough to carry the show through its season, even if the situations feel less than wholly distinctive.
“It was every band’s dream come true,” the tour manager, played by Timothy Olyphant, muses about the group’s heady brush with rock immortality, as filtered through the in-hindsight prism of its personality-driven collapse.
“Daisy Jones & the Six” doesn’t quite qualify as a dream come true, but it does turn its fictional story into a four-star soap, wistfully capturing this musical era broadly and the sometimes-fleeting nature of stardom. It’s a taste, as Fleetwood Mac put it, of “the stillness of remembering what you had, and what you lost.”
“Daisy Jones & the Six” premieres March 3 on Amazon’s Prime Video.
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