Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUMMER TV PREVIEW -

The con­cept feels all right: It’s De­nis Leary do­ing for the grav­i­ta­tional forces of the rockand-roll mi­lieu what he did for the bonds be­tween fire­fight­ers in FX’s “Res­cueMe.” And it would cer­tainly seem as if Leary, whose scathing pop-cul­tural cri­tiques first bub­bled up in the form of com­edy rou­tines and his as­so­ci­a­tion with­MTV eons ago, would know a thing or two about back­stage ex­cesses and artis­tic tor­ment. But the flashy “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” is bizarrely lack­ing in verisimil­i­tude, par­tic­u­larly where the mu­sic is in­volved, which bogs down the show’s fun­nier jokes and mo­ments.

Leary stars as Johnny Rock, the for­mer lead singer of a band called the Hea­thens, which im­ploded on the eve of their ma­jor-la­bel de­but in 1990. Af­ter sev­eral failed at­tempts to re­vive his ca­reer, Johnny is re­duced, 25 years later, to con­sid­er­ing gigs in bands that cover the songs of his more suc­cess­ful peers: Not Bryan Adams. Non Bon Jovi. Stung.

Then the 21-year-old daugh­ter Johnny never knew, Gigi (El­iz­a­beth Gillies), shows up ready to spend her trust fund (pro­vided by her suc­cess­ful mother) on be­com­ing a rock star and of­fers to pay her fa­ther to write her some songs. Johnny and his man­ager, Ira (Josh Pais), per­suade his for­mer Hea­thens band­mates (John Cor­bett, John Ales and Robert Kelly) to re­unite, and it turns out the daugh­ter can re­ally sing. With the Hea­thens on backup, observers in the stu­dio start nod­ding in rhyth­mic ap­proval, like Reuben Kin­caid see­ing dol­lar signs on “The Par­tridge Fam­ily.”

What makes no sense what­so­ever here is the mu­sic — and it’s no triv­ial lapse in de­tail, trace­able to cre­ator/star Leary him­self. De­spite real rock stars (Dave Grohl, Joan Jett) speak­ing to the cam­era in mock­u­men­tary tes­ti­mo­nial, “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” fails ut­terly to nail down Johnny Rock’s genre: Were the Hea­thens a hair band? Was Johnny a lite-rock bal­ladeer? Was it punk? Play­ing him­self, the Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli says the Hea­thens, in their brief hey­day, sounded “like the Who f----- the Clash.”

If only. With this vague sen­si­bil­ity and some out­dated ideas about the mu­sic in­dus­try, “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” be­comes the very thing Johnny claims to loathe most: It is in­au­then­tic and for­get­table. Grade: C

HAR­BRON/FX

De­nis Leary stars as Johnny, the for­mer lead singer of a band. The com­edy lacks plau­si­bil­ity.

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