Showtime’s new series Roadies comes from Cameron Crowe, who wrote and directed the pilot. I don’t know how many Cameron Crowe fans there are left in the world. Somewhere along the way, I think it might have become uncool to be uncool. The new generation with its Bernie-powered progressivism, its identity politics, and its 1 percent activism seems to be so understandably driven by disaffection and anger that they’ve forgotten about the romanticism of the process.
It’s a vocal, powerful generation, but it’s one that’s had its starry-eyed idealism stripped from them by the politics of social media, or maybe it’s because they understand better than some of us that starry-eyed idealism and $4.50 will only buy them a cup of coffee at Starbucks. The dreamers have been replaced by doers, and while that may make them more effective, that sense of dare-to-be-greatness has been lost.
I’m not entirely clear what that has to do with a Showtime series about a rock band’s road crew, except that Roadies recalls so much of what even I missed out on in the 70s: Lives driven not by politics or causes or effectuating change one tweet at a time, but lives driven by our hearts, by music, by song lyrics and poetry, by a desire not to change a world that couldn’t be changed, but to succeed in spite of it.
“This music is the glue of the world, Mark. It’s what holds it all together. Without this, life would be meaningless.” — Empire Records
Roadies is not about story, it’s about a vibe. It’s about the potent combination of music and a glance, or a smile, or a knowing nod. It’s about hearing songs you’ve heard a hundred times in a hundred different contexts, or songs you’ve never heard that stick to you because of a particular scene. It’s about getting goosebumps when Eddie Vedder’s voice crescendos, or hearing the Head and the Heart sing during sound check.
I don’t really know what it’s about yet, but I love it. Luke Wilson is back to his old self. Carla Gugino is blithe perfection, and Imogen Poots is the Penny Lane of Roadies, someone who works not for money, but out of the belief that music can still mean something, that it still possesses a transcendent, transformative power that lives with you after the last guitar string has been plucked.
It’s a show about not selling out. It’s a show about telling the man to go fuck himself. It’s a show about ideals and sticking to them.
It’s an uncool show, and cynics will hate it. They will call it cloying and sentimental, and that it is driven by music that is emotionally manipulative (but isn’t that what music is meant to do?! Manipulate our emotions!?) Like everything Cameron Crowe, the mix tape of music is perfect— there must be 12 impeccably chosen songs in the pilot alone — and its heart is beating outside of its chest, knowing it’s probably going to get broken by a thousand critics. It doesn’t care, because a broken heart is what we risk when we fall in love, and Roadies wants us to fall in love with it.
Not everyone will, of course. It’s a show that appeals to a certain demographic. People who always say “bless you” in an elevator. People prone to huge romantic gestures. People who dream up idealistic mission statements in the middle of the night. And most of all, it’s for people who still believe there’s a Golden God living within all of us.