It’s fitting that Prime Video’s new series Daisy Jones & the Six charts the rise and fall of a popular ’70s rock band, because the show actually feels like a double album from that era: overly long and often self-indulgent, but with scattered bits of greatness that make the whole thing worthwhile. Daisy Jones — premiering this Friday; I’ve seen the first five episodes — takes a while to get started and falls victim to quite a few rock biopic clichés along the way, but the vibrant music scenes and an array of strong performances and memorable original songs are enough to make me a fan.
Based on the Taylor Jenkins Reid bestseller, Daisy Jones is framed as a look back at the explosive demise of the fictional title band, with each member sharing their unique perspective decades later in a music documentary. The formation of the band follows two paths: a promising but struggling rock band led by singer Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin), and a talented but prickly chanteuse named Daisy Jones (Riley Keough) blessed with a head full of songs. When those two paths cross and Billy and Daisy start to make music together, they become superstars… but of course, superstars fall back down to earth eventually.
Anyone yearning for the good old days of rock and roll will find a lot to like about Daisy Jones; it’s a sun-dappled love letter to a bygone musical era, combining the giddy joy of Almost Famous with the passionate creative spark of A Star Is Born. There’s a fine line, though, between nostalgia and cliché, and this show wanders back and forth on either side of that line. We get clumsy family drama, alcoholism (with characters drinking Jack Daniels straight out of the bottle, of course), jealousy, infidelity and just about every other rock indulgence you can imagine. The pacing here is bloated and meandering, too: a two-hour story stretched to 10. Daisy doesn’t even meet Billy and the Six until Episode 3, and Daisy and Billy waste a lot of time bickering when we all know they’ll eventually work it out and write hits together.
The solid cast does a lot to help sell the clichés, however. Keough — a gifted actress whose stellar work on The Girlfriend Experience didn’t get enough attention — nails Daisy’s ethereal yet wounded vibe (she’s basically Stevie Nicks, right down to the twirling with scarves on stage), and though Claflin looks about a decade too old to play Billy, he flashes serious rock star presence. (Timothy Olyphant makes a cameo as tour manager Rod Reyes, looking like he’s wearing a Halloween costume wig and mustache.) Plus, it’s crucial that the original songs sound authentic, and thankfully, they’re the real deal. (I found myself singing the band’s breakout hit “Look at Us Now (Honeycomb)” days later.)
Watching Billy and Daisy have their “Shallow” moment while performing that song together for the first time is when Daisy Jones really takes flight; it captures that feeling where music transcends genre and melody and speaks directly to our souls. They may take their sweet time getting there, but when the band finally gets into the studio and hammers out a hit, or when they have a candlelit sing-along to Faces’ “Ooh La La” during a blackout, we forget about all the clichés that came before and just groove along with the vibe, man.
THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: Amazon’s Daisy Jones & the Six is hampered by rock star clichés, but it captures a vibrant creative spark that’s hard to resist.