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Daisy Jones & The Six - TV Review
Channeling the energy of Almost Famous without ripping it off was an incredible feat.
This site typically covers music from my youth, but this week, I'm discussing a TV show on Amazon Prime about a fictional band that would've existed before I was even born. The show is based on a 2019 book with the same title. Over ten episodes, the show takes you through the various stories of the band members as they rise, fall, and rise again. The characters are flawed yet wonderful. The story has heart, heartache, and some laughs. There are triumphant moments and absolute train wrecks too. Ultimately, the show delivers a complex portrayal of a fictional band and, without being overly saccharine, manages to provide a happy ending. And don't worry; I can say that without it being a spoiler.
Daisy Jones & The Six was a TV show seemingly written for me. It fits right in with my all-time favorite movie, Almost Famous. Anyone familiar with Cameron Crowe's film will understand that it's a movie about people and their humanity. However, what made it magical was the authentic music that didn't insult the audience's intelligence. Much like the songs of Stillwater from Almost Famous, the songs of Daisy Jones & The Six have been released as an actual album, featuring lead vocals by the actors who played Daisy Jones and Billy Dunne.
Before I get to those two actors, let's discuss the music of DJ&TS. While Stillwater was a pure classic rock band in the mold of the lead guitarist and lead singer like Zeppelin, Skynyrd, Aerosmith, etc., Daisy Jones & The Six are clearly meant to evoke the sound of Fleetwood Mac. It's not an exact replica, but if you listen to "Let Me Down Easy," you'll hear it right away. An even better example would be "Look at Us Now (Honeycomb)." The production has the same fuzzy warmth of Fleetwood Mac as the male and female vocals intertwine in a catchy, up-tempo jaunt.
I don't hate Fleetwood Mac, but I've never been a big fan. The fact that this show captivated me without adhering strictly to the genre stereotypes I love the most speaks volumes. I was never a classic rock guy, really, so it's not exactly my wheelhouse to love the music of DJ&TS. The characters drew me in.
Daisy Jones was played by Riley Keough, who hadn't really sung before, even though her mother is Lisa Marie Presley and, obviously, her grandfather was Elvis. Her father is a musician named Danny Keough as well. Over the course of two years (thanks to the pandemic), this fictional band essentially became a real one. They don't play the instruments on the album, but the actors all learned to play the parts at least to some level of proficiency, so it would look and sound authentic during filming. Riley as Daisy was just about perfect, from the tough, no-nonsense teenager to the star who propelled the band to success; you believed her as the authentically evolving girl-turned-woman in the film.
Sam Claflin played Billy Dunne, the older band leader who took his scrappy group, The Dunne Brothers, from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles to make a go of it with his brother Graham, played by Will Harrison. Billy Dunne confronts demons and embraces others throughout the show's ten episodes. You love his marriage with Camila, played by Camila Morrone. You feel heartbroken for him and frustrated when he's misunderstood. Ultimately, through it all, they find the balance of showing you all his flaws without making you want to stop rooting for him. You want him to be a great family man. You want him to live out his rock dreams. You want him to find the elusive balance he seems to be seeking throughout the show.
Suki Waterhouse plays keyboard player Karen Sirko, who ends up in a love triangle with Graham Dunne. She's fighting for her legitimacy without becoming "the girlfriend" of the band. They flesh out this relationship and these characters beautifully without it coming off like a record-scratching "MEANWHILE" cutaway. Weaving all the characters together without it feeling like separate sets is one of the fascinating aspects of the show. Even as it crosses time periods and geographies, not to mention all the trials and tribulations, you feel like you're in the same world all the time.
Lastly, the side characters are incredibly well done. Nabiyah Be as Simone Jackson, Tom Wright as super-producer Teddy Wright, and Timothy Olyphant as the tour manager all excel in their parts. In fact, Olyphant is probably the only name I really know from the cast list, but he disappears into his role spectacularly. Additionally, it should be noted how great Ayesha Harris is as Simone's New York lesbian love interest, Bernie. She comes off like a wise advisor in a show full of mercurial talents. She provides a sober dose of reality that was needed by the characters in the fictional world, and also in the storytelling arc.
I was so happy with this show and how it all went, but was very wistful when it was all done. It was ten episodes and probably about the perfect amount of content to tell the story, make you feel pretty satisfied, and also sad that it had to end. The magic of Daisy Jones & The Six lies in the heart. Sometimes it's filling it up, and other times it's breaking it, but the show never stops wearing it on its sleeve.