There’s a formula for biopics or dramas about musicians, singers, or bands. You have the initial rough phase where the heroes are in their hometown and are figuring themselves out while being berated by their parents, friends, bullies, or lovers. Then the heroes think they’ve caught their big break, but it only turns out to be a ruse. After toiling a lot, they gain popularity, and they’ve to decide between their personal life and their country-hopping professional life. They always choose the latter, and that leads to drugs and affairs. That doesn’t impact them, though, because they feel they’re invincible because of their fame. Sooner or later, they come crashing to Earth, and the credits start to roll. However, recent ventures like “Rocketman,” “Elvis,” and “The Sparks Brothers,” “tick, tick, BOOM!” and even “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” have shown us that, since they are about music, these biopics and dramas can be treated as proper musicals instead of visual jukeboxes with some dialogue thrown in here and there. Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber’s “Daisy Jones & The Six,” which is loosely based on Fleetwood Mac’s journey, clearly thinks that the aforementioned formula is the best thing in existence.
Based on Taylor Jenkins Reid’s book, the prime video miniseries revolves around the titular band and is told through a series of interviews. They chronicle how they started as a bunch of unknowns from Pittsburgh by playing in places where no one listened to them. But as soon as they became “The Six”—Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin), Graham Dunne (Will Harrison), Eddie Roundtree (Josh Whitehouse), Warren Rojas (Sebastian Chacon), and Karen Sirko (Suki Waterhouse)—they moved to Los Angeles. With the help of Rod Reyes (Timothy Olyphant) and Teddy Price (Tom Wright), they started to get more legit gigs. And then they were advised to include Daisy Jones (Riley Keough), who was going about her own life with Simone Jackson (Nabiyah Be), into the band because they needed another vocalist. That was when the fictional band witnessed meteoric success, and that was also when they started their descent into oblivion, largely due to Daisy and Billy’s chaotic relationship.
The experience of watching the story of “Daisy Jones & The Six” unfold was the equivalent of staring at an empty room for around 500 minutes. If you stare at the walls of your house, they will initially appear blank and devoid of any texture. But then maybe an ant will walk over it and meet another ant. They’ll interact for a bit and then move on. A few minutes later, maybe you’ll spot a spider trying to make a web and catch other insects. If you stay there for a long time, you’ll see the shadows cast by the sun or the moon shift in interesting ways. However, are these individual moments connected by some kind of theme or narrative other than “things happening in life”? No, they aren’t, and the same can be said about “Daisy Jones & the Six.” Every scene exists because we’ve seen it in a musical drama or biopic. Every line of dialogue bluntly and explicitly reveals what a character is feeling while being devoid of any sincerity and brimming with corniness. You can see every twist and turn from a mile away, and yet the writers do nothing to subvert your expectations. And that’s exactly why it feels like the miniseries is a kindergartener’s interpretation of bands and musicians from the ’70s after binging on musical dramas and biopics for a whole month.
To be honest, I can tolerate hackneyed storytelling if a show or a movie at least looks great, which is something that “Daisy Jones & The Six” doesn’t excel at. Only a few hours have passed between watching all ten episodes of the miniseries provided as screeners and sitting down to write this review, and yet, I can’t remember a single memorable frame. Everything from its costume design, production design, music style, hair, and make-up, and even the title cards want us to know that the miniseries is set in the 1970s. But if the showrunners would’ve countered its drab and washed-out look with some color, flair (in terms of the editing), and kinetic camerawork, all that window dressing would’ve been at least a little noteworthy. If you pick up any movie from the ’70s, you’ll see how engaging and imaginative they are even when it comes to framing a simple scene between two actors. After watching that, if you jump to “Daisy Jones & the Secret Six,” it’ll feel like visual storytelling has somehow regressed. Things do come alive during the concert scenes, but it’s not enough. Tom Howe’s music is commendable, and the fact that it has been actually performed by the cast is a major plus point. The “dramatic scenes,” though, are abysmal.
When it comes to the performances in “Daisy Jones & The Six,” Camila Morrone and Nabiyah Be (who are there to do some major queer representation) are definitely the best out of the lot. But since they are on the sidelines, they can’t save the miniseries. Timothy Olyphant and Tom Wright have some good moments. Out of the core cast, Sam Claflin does most of the heavy lifting. Sebastian Chacon is fine. I have no clue what kind of direction was given to Suki Waterhouse, Will Harrison, and Josh Whitehouse because they feel so out of place that it’s not even funny. However, the greatest offender is Riley Keough. It is truly wild that despite starring in over 20 films and in shows like “The Girlfriend Experience” and “The Terminal List,” she always ends up being the weak link. In “Daisy Jones & the Six,” she shows some energy when she has to shout or when she has to sing. When she has to emote during the conversational scenes, she brings nothing to the stage. She stares at her co-star with a blank, dead-eyed expression and takes the already frustrating nature of the show to the next level. Well, good for her for bagging all these roles. However, I hope that the next time she realizes she isn’t up to the mark for a certain role, she tells the producers to give it to a deserving candidate instead of hogging the limelight.
“Daisy Jones & The Six” would’ve been tolerable if it would’ve been a 120-minute-long flick or even a 180-minute-long movie. Five hundred minutes is torturous. And that brings me to the most important topic: Are readers who turn books into “best sellers” okay? I don’t think so. Usually, when the adaptation of a book fails, we blame the director of the movie or the showrunners for it. But what about the book itself? Did it have enough material to be turned into a movie or a show in the first place? Or was it hyped for no discernible reason, and then producers thought that the book’s popularity would just translate into the popularity of the show or movie? I don’t know, but it’s definitely something that we should discuss. Any visual medium’s intelligence is questioned on a daily basis. However, in my opinion, the literary medium isn’t being questioned as much because it has always been synonymous with intellect and wisdom. It’s about time that readers and critics of books become more critical of what they are consuming and hyping. Or else we’ll keep getting subpar pieces of so-called entertainment like “Daisy Jones & The Six.”