Daisy Jones & the Six review: Rock myth rehabbed into a charming soap
Half an hour into Daisy Jones & the Six, Timothy Olyphant arrives twice. To that point, the show has mainly been bad wigs. Taylor Jenkins Reid's bestselling novel built an oral history around a fictional rock band's rise and fall. The series reformats into an unconvincing faux-documentary, with obvious thirtysomething actors playing dreamy '70s youth and middle-aged interviewees. The needle drops are on (and up) the nose: "Bang a Gong (Get It On)" blasts while teen Daisy (Riley Keough) snorts her way down Sunset. The tone is a bit Bee Gees' Sgt. Pepper's, authentic as a Vegas residency.
Then Olyphant head-bops onscreen as tour manager Rod Reyes. In the past, he's a pornstache wearing midnight aviators and the kind of hippie hair that Dirty Harry cut with a bullet. The talking-head future renders him a silver fox with a flirty scarf. "Enough with the political s---!" is his world-weary advice to a wannabe-Dylan. "No one needs reminding that the world is a mess. People want to feel good again." Olyphant's costume-rack theatricality signposts Daisy Jones' excessive charm. The 10-part miniseries (premiering March 3 on Prime Video) starts absurd, turns sneakily profound, and lands in schmaltz so soapy I had to wipe tears from my eyes.
Lacey Terrell/Prime Video Riley Keough and Sam Claflin as Daisy Jones and Billy Dunne
Loveless Hollywood luxury raises Daisy into a club kid who knows every bouncer on the Strip. Her eventual partner Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin) and his little sibling Graham (Will Harrison) are Pittsburgh guys seeking a third option beyond the mill and the Nam. The Dunne brothers become the Dunne Brothers, a band with cheerful Warren (Sebastian Chacon) on drums and proud Eddie (Josh Whitehouse) just such a bass player. British keyboardist Karen (Suki Waterhouse) joins later. Billy's photographer girlfriend Camila (Camila Morrone) is the unofficial sixth Brother, maintaining a family spirit after they all move to California.
Those six become the Six, who Daisy won't meet until episode 3. First she has to befriend aspiring diva Simone (Nabiyah Be) and date enough sludgy writers to figure out she'd rather make music than be muse-ish. Meanwhile, Billy goes out of control, even as his romance with Camila accelerates. "Same old tired rock and roll tale," the elder Billy recalls. "The drinking, the drugs, the loneliness." It's worse than tired with the mockumentary stuff, so many future selves overexplaining obvious dramas. The twin origins take so long. Finally, savvy producer Teddy Price (Tom Wright) pairs the plots together, asking pill-popping Daisy to guest-vocalize with newly sober Billy. Then this rock rolls.
I should admit, I'm a sucker for the setting. '70s Los Angeles was: Cheap rent in Laurel Canyon, street parking outside Whiskey a Go Go, every party a pool party, every business meeting a pool party, no brand collaborations, no TikTok houses, boho before chic, collars, 'ludes, weed still illegal therefore awesome, was traffic invented yet? More myth than fact, of course, and Daisy Jones uncovers sordid truths behind the music. Daisy blows male minds when she dares to write her (HER!) lyrics. Simone suffers that plus racism and homophobia. Worthy tales, though showrunners Scott Neustadter and Will Graham are more comfortable printing legends. The group's lineup approximates Fleetwood Mac, but Daisy's arrival suggests a more titanic rockstar crossover, like some mashed-together Joni Jett parachuting into the Allman Brothers.
Lacey Terrell/Prime Video Riley Keough as Daisy Jones
Daisy lifts the Six's popularity and challenges Billy's authority. "I'm not here to sing harmony on a bunch of love songs about your wife," she insists. The stupendous fifth episode tracks one day in the co-frontpeople's combustive partnership. Keough excels at self-destructive self-confidence; consider this plumb role Amazon's apology for dead-wifing her in The Terminal List. When Daisy grabs Billy's mic in their first performance, you sense brash moxie and imperial selfishness. Is she a woman claiming her voice or a rich girl stepping on a mill-town boy? Keough's pop supergenes add another layer. You want to feel Billy repressing the tiger force Daisy thirstily embraces. Claflin can't summon that wildness — he wasn't even the Huntsman in The Huntsman — but his default pained expression serves a different purpose. After his early spiral, he almost retires for his family. So every step toward fame (and Daisy) is dangerous. If he becomes interesting, he might implode.
The ex-boozer monogamist and the Chateau-dwelling free spirit hate each other, might love each other. That's obvious from the opening credits, but intriguing dramas invigorate that dynamic. Their album, their band, their relationships, their health: What's good for one will ruin another. We know calamity awaits; the premiere establishes a complete break-up in 1977. The journey there surprised me, moving from broken-glass music joints through fraught recording sessions into a doomed tour.
The songs are original. The actors play their instruments. I don't hear a single, frankly, and the group looks as okay as your garage band. I miss garage bands, though, and this one is exclusively model-pretty. Graham's flirtation with Karen is a bit whatever, but Waterhouse looks rad as hell on the keys. Whitehouse finds real tragedy in a bassist smart enough to know he's history's bystander. Chacon is a hoot as the guy who wants druuuuuuuugs and chiiiiiiicks. Simone ventures afield into the rise of New York disco, which 1. Is cool and 2. Always feels like a different show. Veteran character actor Wright makes Teddy a lovable father figure and the least music sleazy producer ever. There's a Greek Island episode, it's silly and lovely. Timothy Olyphant, too!
"Rock and roll should be passion, pain, anger!" Eddie declares, and the material invites the firecracker guitar-hero stylistics of The Doors or Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains. For a while, I thought Daisy Jones was too mild by comparison: Less sex and drugs, more wuv and rehab. Basically nice characters sing about each other to each other, with lyrics well-timed to comment on recent plot turns. Does this sound fun or ridiculous? It's a bit of both, but I grooved on the easy listening. In the end, heaven help me, I cried about a wig. Grade: B+