It would only take a number of minutes in conversation with me to discover my disdain for the music biopic genre. Despite being 21, I grew up an “old soul” and shuffling between The Beatles, U2, Bruce Springsteen, etc. on my iPod, so it does matter to me how icons’ stories are portrayed. But for every fantastical adaptation of a biography like Rocketman is a case of a glorified Wikipedia entry as I Wanna Dance with Somebody was. I’m of the belief that documentaries are generally more apt to capture these larger-than-life personalities in a way that’s entertaining and sometimes insightful — just look at what Moonage Daydream and The Velvet Underground did for their respective subjects.
But there’s no need to have any worries about that with Daisy Jones & The Six — a new series and adaptation of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s 2019 novel of the same name — as it’s a fairytale of a rock group in the 70s. To be blunt the band is basically Fleetwood Mac (the cast members don’t even shy away from this, as seen in my interview with the stars). From the sound of their songs to the relationship between the lead singers, it’s abundantly clear what band this series is portraying — just change out some names. But because this series is technically not officially about a real band, it’s not tied to the hip of history and obligated to depict certain events or historical moments like a career-defining Live Aid performance — and that’s the biggest strength of Daisy Jones & The Six. When I interviewed the director of the first five episodes, James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now, Summering), last summer, he promised something special a la Almost Famous. He, along with the entire production team and crew, knocked it out of the park.
In Pittsburgh, PA, a small rock band called The Six is born in the garage of Graham Dunne (Will Harrison). Also in the band are Warren Rhodes (Sebastian Chacon) and Eddie Roundtree (Josh Whitehouse). They’re struggling to get their feet off the ground, barely able to hit the hi-hat in rhythm, but they would soon find a savior.
Little did they know that Graham’s older brother, Billy (Sam Claflin) — the typical “popular” older brother who got all the girls — would pull a Bono-like move and immediately slide into the lead singer role and thus take over the band’s open frontman position. After beginning by playing small gigs including parties and graduations, the band eventually meets a tour manager, Rod Reyes (Timothy Olyphant), and bet on themselves when they move to Los Angeles.
But along the way, some band members leave while newcomers join. A keyboardist for a band that went on before The Six at a small show, Karen (Suki Waterhouse), upends her life to join after an invite from Graham, and eventually, one Daisy Jones (Riley Keough) would join the band and they would never be the same from that moment on.
Framed as a documentary looking back two decades after the band’s last gig at Soldier Field, Daisy Jones & The Six shows the rise, fall and everything in between of the 70s biggest band that includes massive tours and a chart-topping album, Aurora.
Like fans of most bands, we’re here for Daisy and Billy’s relationship and all of the drama that comes with it. It’s a harsh reality, sure, but does anyone really care about Larry Mullen Jr. or Bob Scaggs? Let’s be real, most fans fall in love with the lead singer or lead guitarists while the ones doing the dirty work — I’m looking out for my fellow bassists — are usually left overlooked unless you’re Paul McCartney or Sting.
Keough and Claflin, as a result, are the focal point of the series. I guess the name of the former’s character is in the title of this series, after all, and they make the most of it. It’s a tall task as the two are not only asked to be believable as Daisy and Billy grow closer and write songs, they have to intensely argue throughout with their stubborn personalities routinely clashing.
Both, but particularly Keough, really shine in their performance scenes. She consistently channels her inner Stevie Nicks while Claflin resembles a young Springsteen (a reference point I was glad to hear him make in my interview with him). Maybe it was the months of rehearsal and preparation they had, but the two look like real rockstars which goes a long way in a series about a rock band.
Despite how great the two leads are, you’re going to have to accept that the background players are not getting nearly as much attention. It’s almost as unbalanced as those pesky EQ knobs in the studio. And the rest of the band does have their various dramas, but it’s always second fiddle to whatever Daisy and Billy’s relationship is at a given moment and the lurking presence of Billy’s wife, Camila (Camila Morrone).
One of my least favorite things people say when recommending a series is that you just have to get through “x amount of episodes” before it picks up. That said, Daisy Jones & The Six is a case of a series that takes some time to develop. It really begins to hit its stride around the fourth episode and is wildly addicting like a good hook in a song for the next four or five episodes. The episodes were directed by a combination of Ponsoldt (who directed the first five episodes), Will Graham (who directs one episode) and Nzingha Stewart, who, if my math is correct, directed four episodes.
And surprisingly, despite my love for Ponsoldt’s work, it’s Stewart who really brings the most flare to their episodes. There’s far more eccentricity in the camera movement when Stewart is directing the episode, and the concert scenes are captured in a way that feels alive. Perhaps that’s just a result of the hand she was dealt given that her episodes are the meat and potatoes of this story where there are more concert sequences, but be that as it may, each of her episodes stood out. She also handles Simone (Nabiyah Be)’s subplot with the proper amount of delicacy.
Most important to any series involving a musical artist is the, well, music. While not directly portraying a band can be a blessing story-wise, one has to imagine that it makes it infinitely more difficult when it comes to writing songs for the band to perform. How do you sound like Fleetwood Mac without directly ripping off “Go Your Own Way” or “Landslide” (one song does try its damndest to sound like the latter)? Well, all of the real-life artists that contributed including the world’s queen, Phoebe Bridgers, Blake Mills and Jackson Browne — amongst others — managed to do just that. It hasn’t been made clear who contributed to what song, but a listen-through of the full Aurora album will hopefully clarify that to some degree. They just do a great job of writing something that truly captures the spirit of Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles and even The Kinks (compare the chorus of “Where Have All The Good Times Gone” to the chorus of “Regret Me”).
But please, to any filmmakers depicting the 70s, can we please stop using the likes of “Bang a Gong (Get it On)” and “More Than a Feeling” during montages? We get it, it’s the 70s and you need an easy-listening hit that’s recognizable to anyone not living under a rock for 50+ years, but these feel like the cliché choices. Throw in a slightly lesser-known hit of the time period like a “Peaceful Easy Feeling” or some Steve Miller Band every once in a while just to spice things up.
Given that the novel Daisy Jones & The Six is under 400 pages, 10 episodes may be one or two too long when it comes to the series. There’s one episode towards the end of the season that feels like filler until the last few minutes. It’s so inconsequential like many MCU movies are until their obligatory tease of what’s next for the future films in the franchise. I won’t spoil which episode that is, but it becomes clear once you step back and look at the entire series after viewing it. That said, I’ll take one filler episode over a finale that merely wraps up each character’s stories after the penultimate episode wraps up the main storyline.
But overall, even with a filler episode, Daisy Jones & The Six is one of Prime Video’s better series. Fans of 70s rock will have so much to sink their teeth into, and the two charming leads are magnetic. When it’s all said and done and everyone has seen the series, I can’t imagine a scenario where the reactions aren’t a “Landslide” of positive ones.
The first three episodes of Daisy Jones & The Six premiere on March 3 on Prime Video.