After a Sunday afternoon spent restlessly praying for sleep, I open my eyes. My alarm is ringing; it is 6PM Pacific Standard Time. I switch it off and stare at the ceiling. “Time to watch the Roadies,” I solemnly declare aloud. I am alone.
Every new episode of Roadies pulls a consistent 0.1 Nielsen rating in the coveted 18-49 year old demographic, of which I am a card-carrying member. Which means, on any given Sunday, 0.1% of the viewing public in this demographic is watching Roadies. I am, indeed, alone. This week, however, I have enlisted friends to watch it with me, if only in an impotent attempt to boost its viewership and, therefore, ensure a second season. After tonight, only one episode of Roadies remains. I, like the roadies themselves, am not ready for the tour to end.
Huna, the Staton-House Band’s stoic, profound Hawaiian security guard, does not have trouble sleeping. As a matter of fact, he had a dream last night. About a melting animal. “It. Will. Happen. Tonight,” he predicts.
His premonition soon comes to pass. An ice sculpture of a bear, the Staton-House Band’s logo, drips on the buffet table of the corporate gig the band has been hired to play. “Oh my gosh,” Kelly Ann, the roadies’ porcelain doll, whispers. “Huna’s melting animal. It’s like a metaphor, the end of something.” In the Roadies universe—nay, in the Cameron Crowe universe—it is not enough to merely provide a metaphor. A character must also state that it is a metaphor, while also throwing in the name of another character for good measure. This method of screenwriting is as nuanced as the bomb that was dropped on Pearl Harbor.
My friend Joey, upon hearing Kelly Ann’s metaphorical bomb, declares “Phil’s gonna die.” Let the record show he, like the majority of my friends, has not seen anything beyond the first 30 minutes of the first episode. The only difference he knows exists between Phil and Bill, two of the show’s primary characters, is that Phil, unlike Bill, wears a hat with his own name on it. And that Phil once FaceTimed Kelly Ann from outer space, where he was working on the Taylor Swift tour, because I told him.
Christopher, the band’s sensitive-to-a-fault songwriter, neglects to show up to the corporate gig, which is for a rubber company we are led to believe is somehow unethical, thus adding to the heavy-handed, anti-sellout ethos of the episode. But he had just texted Bill that morning, and things seemed fine...why the no-show? “I’m finding my way back,” Bill reads from the text message in question. Shelli, the married tour manager and object of his affection (it can’t be a Crowe joint without star-crossed lovers!), stops him in his tracks. “That’s a line from ‘November Girl,’” she replies, in shock. “He’s with Janine!” Janine, as you won’t recall because you, too, have only seen the first 30 minutes at best of the first episode of Roadies, is his soul-sucking muse. This is very bad news.
The CEO of the unethical rubber company that has brought the band to sunny San Diego is not happy about Christopher (“his favorite tortured singer-songwriter”)’s disappearance. Reg, the corporate shill who is, for the purposes of extended scenes of self-reflection, becoming a human being, tells him the “actual truth.” And what, pray tell, is the truth? That he, having become woke, now rejects everything the CEO stands for. “The key to life isn’t the pencil,” he tells him. “It’s the eraser. The key to life is the second chance.” But...erasers are... made of rubber? I apologize for trying to insert logic into the Roadies universe.
Kelly Ann, who is, like Reg, trying to reinvent herself—to recapture the joy and the wonder she once had as a teenager, when life was pure, possibilities endless, and selling out tantamount to death—has decided to start drinking. “The whole old school vibe is dead,” a roadie for another band playing the corporate gig tells her over drinks. “People don’t even clap anymore because they have a phone in their hand. Wake up. We’re just here to steal a few watches off the rotting carcass of what used to be alternative music.” This pseudo-profound statement, one in a series of paragraph-length soliloquies (Aaron Sorkin does the “walk and talk.” Cameron Crowe does the “talk and talk”) emerges from a completely new character we have never seen before, as opposed to, quoth my friend Sean, “one of the 32 series regulars.” Thankfully all characters, regular or no, are interchangeable in the respect that they’re are impossible to develop feelings for. Everyone is a cipher, an excuse for a paragraph-length pseudo-profound soliloquy written by a man who, like the concept of selling out, is not long for this world.
Allow me the continued indulgence of inserting a note I wrote while watching tonight’s episode, devoid of context:
“WHY can the girl in an eraser costume sing and WHY are she and Milo singing a Gillian Welch song while sitting next to a pool WHY WHY”
Why? Why? It is one in a series of questions that have no answers. I know why Roadies exists. It’s all I do know. It exists because nostalgia feels safe, and Hollywood loves safe. The nostalgia of purity. The nostalgia of rock’s alleged golden era (while I may not be a Skynyrd fan, I’ll allow that I’m in the minority, in much the same way I, as someone who actually watches Roadies, am in the minority). Hell—maybe, in spite of it all, they’ll be another season. I’m no Nostradamus. But you know who is? My friend Joey.
Phil has a heart attack and falls in a pool, remembering standing stage side with Lynyrd Skynyrd all the while. Reg drags him out, but it’s too late. He’s fucking dead. Kelly Ann cries a single, cinematic, crocodile tear. The last shot of the show is of the bear ice sculpture with its head fallen off. I am immediately confused and angered by the fact that “Free Bird” doesn’t play over this scene, yet just as immediately realize it is probably being saved for next episode’s wake scene, where it will no-doubt be performed on a ukulele by Eddie Vedder. Well played, Crowe. You have, in spite of yourself, leave me wanting more.
Speaking of more, the Song of the Day is “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” by Phantogram which, previous to this episode, I had only seen advertised in the context of a bus stop bench. I assume the bus stop bench was seen by more people.