Roadies Sundays, 10 p.m., Showtime.
What was once the greatest strength of writer-director Cameron Crowe’s movies—his naked, heart-on-sleeve sincerity—has become his greatest weakness, and Crowe’s new Showtime series Roadies is a painfully, hopelessly out-of-touch paean to his favorite subject, the Purity of Rock ’n’ Roll. The height of Crowe’s movie career has been his 2000 masterpiece Almost Famous, a deeply affecting and heartfelt tribute to Crowe’s days as a teenage reporter for Rolling Stone in the 1970s, equal parts exuberance and melancholy. Roadies attempts to recapture that feeling with a story set in the present day, and it stumbles immediately, with music references that feel disingenuous and characters who serve primarily as mouthpieces for Crowe’s outdated sense of musical integrity.
Luke Wilson plays Bill Hanson, the tour manager for a mid-career arena-rock act called the Staton-House Band, which Crowe has compared in interviews to The Black Keys and Pearl Jam. The band itself isn’t the focus of the show, though; its members show up only briefly, and only to provide storylines for the main characters, who are all part of the support crew. The talented main cast also includes Imogen Poots, Carla Gugino and Keisha Castle-Hughes, along with comedian Ron White as an irritatingly grizzled road veteran who’s emblematic of the show’s misguided idea of authenticity.
Instead of sounding passionate and honest, the characters on Roadies sound like they’re reading promotional copy for the artists who appear as guest stars (ranging from The Head and the Heart to Lindsey Buckingham). The third episode features Rainn Wilson as an over-the-top caricature of a megalomaniacal music critic, who dares attack the artistic genius of the Staton-House Band. At one time, Crowe was one of those writers; now he comes off as defensive and self-important as the egotistical rock stars he once wrote about.