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Roadies: Season 1, Episode 2 - "What Would Phil Do?"

Leyla Hamedi

Roadies shifts from the magic-surrealism of music love to the down-to-Earth mishaps of a road comedy in a big, entertaining step up from the pilot.


Roadies

Cast: Carla Gugino, Luke Wilson, Imogen Poots, Rafe Spall
Subtitle: Season 1, Episode 2 - "What Would Phil Do?"
Network: Showtime
Air time: Sundays, 9pm
Air date: 2016-07-03
Amazon

Trouble abounds in the second episode, when the absence of super-roadie and all around keep-shit-together-guy Phil (Ron White) leads to shenanigans. Cases are missing from the tour, pranks are being played on the crew, and the dazzling Christopher House, second half of the Staton-House Band (Tanc Sade, who is Finn! It's Finn From Gilmore Girls!) starts leaving the stage with a kiss of the fingertips. This move may have been okay if Freddie Mercury delivered it, but is getting him laughed off the stage. Bill (Like Wilson), as the de facto Phil, has to handle all this to the point where he keeps thinking he's having a heart attack. Silly bunny, panic attacks are for adults. Though the WWPD t-shirts probably aren't helping, with their constant reminding that he’s messing up his job. Luckily, Shelli (Carla Gugino) can assuage his medical fears and even lend a helping hand; literally, as it turns out, when a clogged toilet threatens the band's comfort.

In a surprising but really pleasant twist, the show seems much more assured of its tone and direction by only the second episode. It was entertaining, light-hearted, and daresay, whimsical? "What Would Phil Do?" seemed to take the very self-assured and happy-go-lucky attitude of the newly departed Phil to heart, and deliver a comic episode that was, mercifully, quite aware when it was pushing the limits (Native American security man Puna [Branscombe Richmond]) came in with his "It won't happen tonight", once more). The try-hard grueling measures the first episode undertook to prove itself have kind of relaxed into focusing on the characters and developing their stories into ones we actually want to follow.

There's finally a bit more insight into what those crazy roadies get up to, as demonstrated by poor financial suit Reg (Rafe Spall) literally begging the crew to explain what they do in order to weed out the extraneous ones. We get some cleverly presented exposition about our characters, Reg gets more hated, and we can now explain to Tom Petty what the point of a roadie is -- although Petty ought to have stopped dancing with Mary Jane a little sooner if he honestly doesn't know after so many years in the business.

As per example, Donna (Keisha Castle-Hughes) is the tough sound engineer who beautifully illustrates a day in the life of a woman in this world, "Are you with the band? Do you know what all these buttons do? Where's the sound GUY?" We get the feeling she would happily set fire to the next dimwit who underestimates her and really, that would be fine. The episode was written by a woman, so it might be that deeper insight that helps the moment hit closer to home with quite a few of us. (No breasts flying akimbo in this episode, either.) Meanwhile, Kelly Ann (Imogen Poots) is given the task of running the teleprompter because, even though she deals with rigging, it's apparently her fault the band’s singing songs they haven't in a long time. Reg keeps trying to get into her good graces, and theirs is a natural, wary alliance that begins to emerge, especially when she doesn't reveal that his nickname contains the word douche, when she still hasn't gotten the honor of one herself.

Meanwhile, Bill has to find another opening band when the last-minute save can't do the rest of the tour. This is where music finally starts introducing itself as a character in the scheme of things. The original openers, The Head and the Heart, exist in the real world, too, and in a gimmick that relates to Donna and how she always picks a song of the day, we get a band and song name scrolling across the screen that neatly embodies the theme of the episode: Gwen Guthrie's, "Ain't Nothing Going on But the Rent". At the same time, this is the audience's music lesson, akin to the ones relegated by a certain other show we’re going to try not to mention. Donna and Bill's expressions as the new opener, Reignwolf, takes the stage, is also a wonderfully mean bit of music elitism; while they may be bowled over by the one-man band's post-blues, the rest of us can't take our horrified eyes off his oil spill of a head. Sleazy and gritty rock 'n' roll, yeah, buddy but you're literally dripping grease. Another reality of life on the road, perhaps, but dry shampoo and dryer sheets say you're a keeper.

As each crew member defends their right to be on that tour, we get to hear a bit more about them, from the serious back-stories like Bill's dad issues and broken marriage, to the more serious, like Wes (Colson Baker), Kelly Ann's twin brother and newly appointed tour manny, revealing how their own parents left them. There are dark undertones that'll no doubt advance each character's personal arcs, but there's never anything that drastically alters the mood. We even get a bit of saving grace for easily appointed bad guy Reg, when he suggests they get rid of the tour bus carting old sets instead of firing anyone. Work that rock 'n' roll hero angle in, suit guy. This might not be a groundbreaking show, but it has the potential to be at least watchable and entertaining, which is a big step up from the pilot.

8

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