"Roadies": a rock 'n' roll epic, decades in the making


I see lots of TV shows, many of them good and a few great. But it's still exciting when something really exceptional comes along. The latest is "Roadies," a Cameron Crowe series that starts Sunday (June 26) on Showtime. Like its subject (rock 'n' roll), this has chaos, comedy, nudity, drama, eccentric people and a great soundtrack. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Don't expect Cameron
Crowe to rush something.

This is someone
who's spent months researching a magazine article, years developing a
movie. His hits -- “Jerry Maguire,” “Almost Famous,” “Say
Anything” -- are separated by large gaps.

“Roadies,” his
remarkable new Showtime series, was nine years -- or 42 years – in
the making. Crowe, 58, started developing it in 2007; much earlier,
he decided road crews are at the heart of rock 'n' roll.

These aren't just
people getting a paycheck, said Carla Gugino, one of the “Roadies”
stars. “The people who choose these professions are obsessed with
music and obsessed with the band.”

The musicans and the
roadies even start to blend, Crowe said. “If you see a Stevie Nicks
solo tour, you kind of see a lot of women in shawls working on the
show. Or a Neil Young tour, they kinda got those Pendletlon shirts
on.”

Back when he was 16,
Crowe was hired by Rolling Stone to do a cover story on the Allman
Brothers. He reportedly spent three weeks with them, even
interviewing everyone in the road crew.

This was not your
usual teen life. By the time Crowe graduated from high school in San
Diego (at 15, after skipping some grades), he'd already started
writing about rock for underground papers. He went on to Creem and
Rolling Stone; audaciously, he sought David Bowie, who didn't do
interviews.

“I was 16,” he
recalled. “I was sitting in my bedroom in San Diego, and the phone
range one night, and it was David Bowie.”

Crowe would spend
the next six months with Bowie and crew. He emerged with an expanded
respect for rock people in general and Bowie in particular. “Even
then, which was kind of a wild period in his life, he was always
obsessed with music and art and never the business.”

His rock-journalism
career flourished, but then Crowe shifted: At 22, he spent a year in
high school under an assumed name, emerging with the book and movie
“Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982).

Crowe soon began
directing his own films, but was never that separated from rock. He
kept writing for Rolling Stone and others. He was married for 24
years to Nancy Wilson of Heart. Many of his films had a rock feel --
“Singles” captured the mood and sound of Seattle grunge – and
some went further.

“Pearl Jam Twenty”
(2011) was an acclaimed documentary. “Almost Famous” (2000)--
about a teen journalist traveling with a rock band -- won an Oscar
for his script annd lingered in Crowe's mind.

“I was really
struck by the fact that 'Almost Famous' spoke pretty loudly to
people,” he said. “It was a very perosnal movie that I didn't
expect would kind of touch people in that way. And I wanted to
revisit the world.”

So he developed
“Roadies,” bringing in producers J.J. Abrams (“Star Wars: The
Force Awakens”) and Winnie Holzman, whose writing has ranged from
“My So-Called Life” to Broadway's “Wicked.”

This time, the focus
is on the road crew for an arena band. “It really is like staging a
battle – the trucks and the equipment from town to town, loading in
and loading out,” Luke Wilson said.

And with that come
sex, humor, joy and impending disaster. It's “crisis-control
constantly,” Gugino said. “You have a very short period of time
to solve a lot of problems.”

She and Wilson play
two of the road leaders, working under an eccentric rock veteran (Ron
White). Then there's a young idealist (Imogen Poots), who fidgets
when a British business type (Rafe Spall) is suddenly in charge.
“It's like a corporate system that Rafe's character represents,”
Poots said.

Ultimately, of
course, this is not a show about businessmen. “People are driven by
music,” Crowe said. Nothing else matches “the way music can
change a situation, a life or relationship .... So the premise is:
Let's just celebrate music and the people who are so passionate about
it.”

-- “Roadies,” 10
p.m. Sundays, Showtime; debuts June 26, rerunning at 11 p.m. and 1
a.m.

-- Reruns include: 8
and 11 p.m. Monday, 9 p.m. Tuesday, 10:20 p.m. Wednesday, 10 p.m. and
midnight Thursday, 8 and 10:35 p.m. Friday (July 1), 7 and 11:05 p.m.
July 2, 8 p.m. July 3