Based on the acclaimed novel, Prime Video’s new series channels great drama and music from the best band that never existed.
Plot: In 1977, Daisy Jones & The Six were on top of the world. Fronted by two charismatic lead singers—Daisy Jones (Riley Keough) and Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin)—the band had risen from obscurity to fame. And then, after a sold-out show at Chicago’s Soldier Field, they called it quits. Now, decades later, the band members finally agree to reveal the truth. This is the story of how an iconic band imploded at the height of its powers.
Review: Rock and roll has long been solid material for movies and television series, often in biopics or thinly veiled portrayals of bands who wouldn’t relinquish their rights to a production company. Few productions have captured the unadulterated highs and lows of being in a band quite like Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, especially when not featuring a band audiences know by name. Based on Taylor Jenkins Reid’s acclaimed bestselling novel, Daisy Jones & The Six may be the closest we will ever come to a biopic of Fleetwood Mac, albeit a heavily fictionalized one showcasing all original music. Chronicling the rise and fall of the titular band, Daisy Jones & The Six is a blend of great songs, solid melodrama, and a talented ensemble cast performing as the greatest rock band that never existed with a star-making turn from Riley Keough as she channels the spirt of her grandfather, Elvis Presley.
Daisy Jones & The Six opens with contemporary interviews with the various members of the titular band as they reflect on their time in the spotlight as one of the most famous bands ever. The series shifts between their candid interview accounts with the events themselves as they unfolded through the 1970s and beyond. For the first three episodes of the ten episode limited series, we follow Daisy Jones (Riley Keough) as she struggles to become a singer-songwriter in California. Across the country, in Pittsburgh, we follow Billy Dunn (Sam Claflin), his brother Graham (Will Harrison), bass player Eddie Roundtree (Josh Whitehouse), drummer Warren Rojas (Sebastian Chacon), and keyboard player Karen Sirko (Suki Waterhouse) as they contend with coming close to fame and squandering it until tour manager Rod Reyes (Timothy OIyphant) sends them west to Los Angeles. When super-producer Teddy Price (Tom Wright) puts the band, The Six, together with Daisy, the makings of a blockbuster band are formed.
In most musical biopics, the band’s genesis would take place in the first act. Daisy Jones & The Six spends a great deal of time establishing the individual personalities in the band, especially with Daisy and Billy. Both deal with addiction issues and familial abandonment in different ways, which later meld their skills as musicians to create something truly special. The three hours spent developing these characters, including Billy’s wife Camila (Camila Morrone) and Daisy’s friend and fellow musician Simone Jackson (Nabiyah Be) allow these characters to ingrain themselves as more than just performers but instead intriguing personalities. Some you will like, and some you will not. It also allows this series to explore the evolution of a band from one style and genre to another, echoing the similar growth of Fleetwood Mac from a blues-inspired group to the pop-rock powerhouse that would become world famous. The parallels between Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood’s relationship with that of Daisy and Billy deviates significantly from reality, but that allows the viewer to appreciate this fictional band on its own merits.
Chronicling the band over the course of a few brief years of success before they unceremoniously disbanded provides a mystery that drives you to watch each episode and invest in what caused the rift that doomed iconic groups like The Beatles. It is fascinating to watch as ego, addiction, stress, infighting, romance, and infidelity destroy people, but even more so when they are realistic and m ulti-layered human beings. All of the actors who portray Daisy Jones & The Six performed the songs heard in the series, written by Blake Mills, Tony Berg, and collaborations with musicians like Phoebe Bridgers. The songs themselves are really good and owe a debt to Riley Keough and Sam Claflin’s vocals, which are surprisingly good. This series marks the first time Keough has sung on screen, and she has every bit the presence her mother and grandfather had on stage. Keough also presents Daisy as a troubled woman who gives off an air of confidence, but as soon as those around her stop looking, her vulnerability comes through. Claflin is equally adept at playing a man who always wanted to be a musician but struggles with crushing self-doubt.
With novelist Taylor Jenkins Reid on board as a producer, this ten-episode series’ scripting duties are predominantly from showrunners Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, alongside several others. Directing duties fall primarily on James Ponsoldt (five episodes), Nzingha Stewart (4 episodes), and Will Graham (1 episode). I was often times reminded of Almost Famous, watching this series recreate 1970s Los Angeles through clothing and hairstyles without ever turning it into a joke. Blake Mills’ music is primarily performed by the title band while characters play records and sing famous tracks from the era. The music that drives this series is mostly the original tracks performed by Daisy and Billy, which makes this series feel like an intimate look at a real band. The coarsing and pulsing feel of rock and roll and the creation of music runs through this entire series and propelled me through each successive episode. I reached the tenth and final episode, excited to see how this story ends, which is both emotionally rewarding and bittersweet.
Daisy Jones & The Six is an excellent adaptation that will please fans of the novel but becomes something much more on screen. With an album full of original songs, Daisy Jones & The Six may be the best fictional band of all time and offers not just a love letter to rock music but an ode to the creative process, warts and all. Riley Keough and Sam Claflin are so good in this story that you will forget they are actors, not rock stars. Daisy Jones & The Six has excellent performances, memorable music, and a consistently solid series from the premiere to the final episode. I am also willing to bet that, if they wanted to, the cast could go on tour as their fictional characters and pack every single arena they visit. That is how good this music is. In an age where viewers are drawn to dragons or zombies, it is a nice change of pace to see a series that delivers something different from anything else on television.
Daisy Jones & The Six premieres on March 3rd on Prime Video.