ByCraig Whyel, writer at
Film & TV news, previews and commentary
Craig Whyel

Apparently, rock and rollers, regardless of their place on the rich and famous food chain, are hard partying, hard-living souls.

One would think, thanks to film and TV, that point has been driven home rather well over the last half- century.

Still, Denis Leary, in his new FX mockumentary comedy series, [Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll](tag:1213515), which premieres July 16th on FX, has belabored the point for a ten-episode first season.

If the name of the show is familiar to you, it probably because it has served as the title of a song by the late Ian Dury and the title of a 2010 film based on Dury’s life. Apparently Mr. Leary’s show is distinguishable “&” sign instead of the actual word.

Further on the matter things familiar, Leary, along with longtime collaborator Jim Serpico, returns to the network where he had his (arguably) greatest success in Rescue Me, a dramedy about a deeply troubled New York City firefighter. The show ran for seven seasons.

In the new show, Leary plays Johnny Rock, the lead singer of “The Heathens,” a band that was on the crest of “something big” in the early 1990s.

They were suddenly and unceremoniously undone by their extremely hard partying and, on the day their first and much anticipated album is released; they break up when Johnny Rock is found in bed with the wife of his band mate, Flash (played by John Corbett).

Elizabeth Gillies
Elizabeth Gillies

The ensuing years have been less than kind of Johnny, who, when the show begins, is middle-aged, burned out and broke.

Cut to present day, he is part of a new band, reunited with his old band mate Flash, and a talented, much younger lead singer who, in a bit of a surprise to Johnny, happens to be his daughter, played by Elizabeth Gillies.

Leary’s creation of Tommy Gavin had a substance abuse problem (largely alcohol), so does Johnny Rock.

Gavin’s partying troubles were successfully mined for dramatic purposes. It appears that he intends to do the same thing for Rock, except that he’s going for laughs.

These days, addicts, whether full on or in recovery, are about as funny as the rock star wig Leary wears in the show.

Information overload, increased awareness…whatever you want to call it…have made the party guy with the lampshade on his head a thing of the past.

Another aspect of the show that has me puzzled is Leary himself.

Tommy Gavin in a rock band?
Tommy Gavin in a rock band?

Perhaps he doesn’t see the stark similarities between Tommy Gavin and Johnny Rock.

They are both unabashed substance abusers.

They both have estranged spouses who are gorgeous, blonde and tall (Andrea Roth and, this time around, Elaine Hendrix).

The both have extremely strong-willed daughters.

They do not work and play well (at all) with others.

One thing that Rescue Me had in its favor was the tremendous supporting cast, especially Callie Thorne, Daniel Sunjata and John Scurti.

The new show’s supporting cast really has their work cut out for them Leary, while doing a considerable amount of acting, is not so much an actor but a comedian playing himself: an anxious, miserable, chatterbox.

There’s nothing wrong with his attributes. They’ve certainly served him well over the years.

On the other hand, looking at the show’s early promos, I think I can imagine their “elevator pitch” to the network: “Tommy Gavin in a rock band.”

I’ve got to wonder when it comes to his second series at FX if his lead characters are just a little too familiar and if that won’t hurt the chances for Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll when it debuts on July 16th.

I like Leary and I’m hoping to find something to like about this show.

I’d be glad to admit that my apprehensions were unfounded.

We’ll find out July 16th.


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