Nearly Almost Famous – Daisy Jones & the Six (2023) Series Premiere

Based on a 2019 novel by author Taylor Jenkins Reid, Amazon Prime Video’s musical drama series Daisy Jones & the Six takes viewers back to the 1970s, a time when a light pop-rock act in the vein of Fleetwood Mac could dominate album sales and become the biggest band in the world.

Given the milieu, the series shares a lot in common with and almost can’t avoid comparisons to Cameron Crowe’s 2000 feature film Almost Famous. Thankfully, it approaches the subject from a different enough angle to not feel like a carbon copy of that movie. Nevertheless, it hits just about every expected story beat for the material. Although filled with strong performances and good music, the show ultimately falls victim to too many feelings of familiarity.

Daisy Jones & the Six (2023) - The Band
Title:Daisy Jones & the Six
Episodes:1.01 – Track 1: Come and Get It
1.02 – Track 2: I’ll Take You There
1.03 – Track 3: Someone Saved My Life Tonight
Release Date: March 3, 2023
Watched On: Amazon Prime Video

The series is framed as a fictional documentary in which members of a legendary band are interviewed some twenty-odd years later to reminisce about how they came together, how they hit the stratospheric heights of success and fame, and, inevitably, how they let everything fall apart. The bulk of each episode consists of flashbacks to various points in the 1970s as they tell their personal histories. Some take place when the characters are teenagers played by a mostly age-appropriate cast, but the majority (at least in these first three episodes) are supposed to be set during the band’s early career in young adulthood. That’s a bit of a problem for one character in particular.

The story is split into two main threads. On the one hand, we have an emerging garage band initially known as The Dunne Brothers, consisting of Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin) as lead singer/guitarist, younger brother Graham (Will Harrison) on drums, and a few friends. After leaving their home in Pittsburgh with dreams of fame and fortune in Los Angeles, they later rebrand as The Six (despite technically only having five members). For a while, they scrape by as the house band for a seedy bar charmingly named Filthy McNasty’s while scrambling to build a fan base and attract the attention of a legitimate music label – efforts which are mostly met with disappointment.

Separately from this, a young singer-songwriter named Daisy Jones (Riley Keough) has a very different journey. While obviously talented, she’s mostly disinterested in the trappings of fame and resists the attempts of music producer Teddy Price (Tom Wright) to pigeonhole her as a specific type of artist or mold her into something superficial she doesn’t want to become. She also refuses to take anyone’s bullshit, which places her at a significant disadvantage in the music industry.

These two storylines follow parallel paths and don’t intersect during the first two episodes, until Teddy finally has the inspiration to bring Daisy together with The Six during the third. Upon meeting her, Billy is not at all thrilled with the idea, but he can’t deny the sparks that fly as soon as they start singing together.

Riley Keough is terrific as Daisy, and the actress’ family ties to the actual 1970s music scene (she’s literally Elvis’ granddaughter!) no doubt helped inform her performance. Significantly distinguished from the Penny Lane character in Almost Famous, Daisy refuses to be anyone’s muse and has a lot more personal agency over how she wants her life to go.

Sam Claflin is also pretty good as Billy, except for the very obvious and distracting fact that he’s clearly too old for the role. I suppose some other 36-year-old actor might be able to pass as an early 20-something, but Claflin looks about ten years older than he actually is. That’s fine in the flash-forward segments, and may be less of a problem in later episodes at the end of the band’s run, but it’s really hard to take Claflin seriously as a 22- or 23-year-old kid in these first few episodes.

Other notable supporting roles include Camila Dunne as Billy’s girlfriend (later wife) who serves as the band’s photographer, Suki Waterhouse as their keyboardist, and (albeit only appearing briefly) Timothy Olyphant as an amusingly spaced-out tour manager.

The original songs are all very good. They sound period authentic and the leads sing them well. I can believe these songs could’ve been hits during the 1970s. The show is well written for the most part. The characters are engaging and I’m interested enough to follow their stories. At the same time, the episodes feel like they’re ticking off a checklist of personal dramas – family, drugs, love lives, jealousy and insecurity, and so forth – that have all been tackled in similar music business dramas (in both movies and TV) countless times before.

I like what I’ve seen of the show so far. However, when the second episode ends with Billy bemoaning that his life has turned into a “same old tired rock ‘n roll tale,” I had to question whether Daisy Jones & the Six itself offers anything new for the genre. I’m not sure that it does, yet. I’d like to hope that will change before the season finishes.

Daisy Jones and the Six (2023) - Sam Claflin

Video Streaming

Amazon Prime streams Daisy Jones & the Six at an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 with occasional 4:3 or 16:9 inserts (for home movies or “documentary” interviews) windowboxed within the frame in Constant Height form. The 4K image is quite sharp, but the photography is stylized to evoke the 1970s with a lot of grain that’s likely artificial and often comes across noisy. Colors are subdued with a heavy emphasis on dull browns, and flesh tones look a little pale most of the time. Black levels are shallow and the HDR grading is subtle. That’s all intentional, and it works to set the mood, but the picture rarely leaps off the screen.

The Dolby Atmos soundtrack is, unsurprisingly, very music-focused, with plenty of both real licensed songs from the 1970s and new ones created for the show. The mix is front-heavy; surround and overhead activity rarely call attention to themselves, but subtly contribute to an authentic sense of ambience in the club and music venue settings. Audio fidelity is generally good, with the caveat that the mix lacks much dynamic range. During music performances, I really wanted the bass guitar and drums to reverberate through my body for a visceral sense of being live at the scene. Sadly, that never happens.

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