Warning: Spoiler Alert
Growing up in the Sixties and Seventies, sitcoms were a major part of this writer’s TV diet, a relationship that remained intact until about ten-years-ago. From the early exploits of Lucy and Ethel, Norton and Kramden, through the more controversial eras of Archie Bunker, Fred Sanford and Murphy Brown, these shows never failed to bring a smile to my face. However whether it was due to changes in the medium or in me, it’s been years since I’ve sat through a 30-minute sitcom, that is until last month.
The FX Network debuted “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll,” last month and it brought the sitcom genre back into my world. It’s not warm and fuzzy, or a show that I’d recommend for family night, it’s sometimes a hard and edgy show and the language is far from family friendly. In that respect it mirrors the show’s star stand-up comic Dennis Leary, whose not known for pulling punches in his act. If Leary’s stand-up act offends you, then likely this show will as well. However if you’re a fan of Leary’s, you’re going to enjoy this series and his character Johnny Rock.
Johnny was on the verge of becoming a Rock And Roll legend back in the early nineties. Dave Grohl in a cameo in show’s premiere, stated that Johnny and his band the Heathens were a huge inspiration for Nirvana. However the day that the Heathens’ debut album got released, the band busted-up, mainly due to Johnny’s excesses and his sleeping with his band mate’s wives and fiancés.
Fast forward to 2015 and Johnny’s manager Ira Feinbaum’s threatening to drop Johnny as a client, unless he takes a role with a tribute band. His longtime girlfriend Ava’s afraid they’re going to lose their New City loft, with a great view of the city. Then suddenly, one more chance to grab the brass ring enters Johnny’s life, in the form of a daughter he never knew existed. His daughter’s a beautiful young woman named Gigi, the daughter of Johnny and a former back-up singer with the Heathens, that moved to Ohio and never informed the singer he had a daughter.
Gigi’s got the desire to become a Rock-Star, so she travels to New York City to meet her father. She’s gotten 200 grand from her mother to pursue her dream and she wants Johnny to get the Heathens back together for a jam session, with her handling lead vocals. Unfortunately, except for Bam-Bam (Robert Kelly) the Heathen’s drummer, Johnny hasn’t spoken to the other two band members since the nasty break-up. Although he has misgivings, the bass-player Rehab, (John Ales) agrees to the jam session, but Johnny still has his work cut out for him trying to convince the Heathens’ lead guitarist Flash (John Corbett) to join them.
Flash’s making great money as the lead guitarist for Lady Gaga, but Johnny realizes that the gig’s nothing more than a payday for his former band mate. He tries to connect with Flash on what they had with the Heathens and the magic they created on stage. However it takes a photo of Gigi in a pink bikini to finally entice Flash to consent.
Johnny expects his daughter to be talentless, but she has the band play one of their old songs Animal and quickly shows she has the voice and stage presence to become a superstar. The Heathens will reform with her as the new lead singer and she wants Johnny and Flash to write five new songs, for a new album. Johnny’s greatest fear is that Flash is going to sleep with Gigi, as revenge for Johnny having sex with the guitarist’s wife when they had the band together. Gigi’s not doing anything to allay those fears, telling her father she’ll date whom ever she wants. She also hires Ira to be hers and the band’s manager.
So far all the stories have centered around Johnny, but it’s the entire cast that makes this series work. Kelly’s Bam-Bam has given up his dependence on drugs and booze for yoga and a food addiction. John Ales’ portrays the bassist Rehab as an angry man, whose just really seeking recognition from the rest of the band. He stays “Clean and Sober,” due to a gym bag filled with prescription drugs, which include drugs that keep him from killing himself, others that keep him from killing Johnny, while others quiet the voices in his head.
Corbett’s Flash brings what Gigi described as that Rock Star nobility in the first episode into the equation. Although he’s added some years and some pounds since his days on Northern Exposure, Corbett’s still a good-looking guy and has retained some of that outlaw edge.
Elaine Hendrix brings a mature and beautiful woman to the small-screen in Ava, the girl who dreamed of marrying David Bowie, ended up with a knock-off but she’s fine with that. She truly loves Johnny and is his biggest supporter, any aspirations of stardom faded long-ago and she doesn’t seem to have any pangs of regret. Elizabeth Gillies plays Gigi as a young woman who can talk smack with the best of them, but deep-down she’s seeking her father’s approval and unconditional love.
Leary’s Johnny Rock’s the scam-artist whose suddenly acquired a conscience. Now in his fifties and suddenly presented with a fully grown daughter, he realizes that this is a second chance not only for himself, but for the others as well. Perhaps for the first time in his life he’s become a team-player and he’s willing to take a step back for success of the band. Leary’s scathing humor’s razor-sharp, but he also gives Johnny a poignancy and sensitivity that makes him a complete character.
Three episodes in, the plots are clever, including trying to improve Johnny’s songwriting ability by keeping him off drugs and booze. That experiment was deemed an abject failure, when Johnny’s first sober composition made everyone run out to restock Johnny’s loft with drugs and liquor. Ira also planted a story on the Internet that Johnny died as a result of Flash shooting him, resulting in a club debut gig for Gigi and the Heathens. Joan Jett was among those who showed up at the club and telling Johnny that the only thing they did, the night they slept together was sleep.
Perhaps this show was built to appeal to the “Dad-Rock Generation” and if that’s the case, then it hits the mark. However I don’t think you have to be over the age of fifty to enjoy this show, this show should appeal to a wide spectrum, kind of like “Dad-Rock” does.
The Series Airs Thursday Night’s at 10:00 pm on FX.