When rock legend becomes soap opera, the result is “Daisy Jones & The Six.” In her best-selling book, Taylor Jenkins Reid expertly chronicles the rise and fall of a chaotic band immersed in sexual tension and addiction, rife with ego and insecurity. But the Amazon Prime Video miniseries reduces this complex narrative to a cheap cycle of sex and drugs, falling into dull romance tropes and glamorous hedonism that ultimately lacks substance.
Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin) and Daisy Jones (Riley Keough), the firecracker twin flames at the heart of the story, are an obvious stand-in for the turbulent real-life relationship between Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac. But even the charismatic Keough, granddaughter of Elvis Presley, doesn’t quite have the “it” factor to make Daisy’s skyrocketing fame feel believable. Claflin also fits the bill for dreamy heartthrob Billy, but gratuitous coke-sniffing and bottle-swinging turns the tragedy of his alcoholism into a seductive stereotype.
The novel’s oral history format lends itself well to a mockumentary style television adaptation, but the music invented for the show fails to embody the explosiveness implied by the narrative.
The set and costume design is almost too stylish, more like something out of a ’70s-inspired Urban Outfitters ad than an authentic portrayal of hippie rock ‘n’ roll culture (in fact, Free People recently announced a Daisy Jones capsule collection of bohemian womenswear).
The band’s sophomore album Aurora is a thin echo of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, pleasantly harmonious but plagued with clunky lyrics and contrived riffs. “Look Me in the Eye,” the first single from the Dunne Brothers before Daisy’s arrival, begins with the nonsensical “I put the man in the moon/ I put the dial in the tone.” Hardly a nostalgic tribute to classic rock ‘n’ roll, Aurora is a glossy 21st century imitation of a romanticized era.
After Billy and Daisy bond over their mutual trauma of absent parents, their chemistry is diminished to a stale love triangle with Billy’s wife (Camila Morrone) — the sweet, stable hometown girl to Daisy’s fiery, tortured artist. Meanwhile, the rest of the band stays quiet on the sidelines. The rivalry between Billy and Eddie (Josh Whitehouse), along with the unexpected romance between Karen (Suki Waterhouse) and Graham (Will Harrison), is haphazardly thrown in near the end, while carefree drummer Warren (Sebastian Chacon) is laughably uninvolved in just about everything.
Another storyline involving Daisy’s best friend, the “disco pioneer” Simone Jackson (Nabiyah Be), is barely explored but rich with possibility. Simone, who must balance her hidden queer identity with rising stardom in the NYC club scene, is often more compelling as a character than Daisy herself, a stereotypical neglected rich girl in LA who just wants to be somebody.
The core problem of “Daisy Jones & The Six” is the monumental task of reverse engineering an era-defining rock ‘n’ roll band. Reid’s novel works in large part because the melodies and riffs are left entirely to the reader’s imagination. Even beyond the faux-hippie outfits and superficial cultural atmosphere, it’s impossible to overcome the feeling of artifice — a story about the turbulence of the creative process and the difficulty of artistic genius dries up in the sun when the supposedly transcendent music is just okay.
For a mostly entertaining melodrama with a few catchy songs, tune in to “Daisy Jones & the Six.” But for an authentic performance of love, betrayal and regret, forgo the ten-part miniseries and instead spend five minutes watching Fleetwood Mac’s 1997 reunion performance of “Silver Springs.”
“So go ahead and regret me,/ But I’m beatin’ you to it dude” is a far cry from “You’ll never get away from the sound/ Of the woman that loved you.”