Five episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll is pretty damning evidence that the narcissist is killing television. From the bizarrely popular Two and a Half Men to the thankfully short-lived Weird Loners, there seems to be a constant flow of unlikable, self-absorbed assholes leading half-hour comedies, with show creators across all networks seemingly convinced that the most endearing trait a sitcom character can possess is consummate unpleasantness (yes, HBO, you too, don’t think for a second that Girls is growing on us). FX’s latest is the natural end-point of this unfortunate small-screen phenomenon: a series populated entirely by painfully unlikeable people, and that’s (funnily enough) painfully unlikeable itself.
Riffing on the age-old idea that the best rock ‘n’ roll bands were typically the ones that nearly killed themselves on a nightly basis with a toxic cocktail of substance abuse, hard alcohol and licentious behavior, the series revolves around Johnny Rock (Denis Leary), a washed-up rock star so thoroughly despicable that even his band – the Heathens – couldn’t stay together past the day their first album dropped.
Johnny, you see, was a bit of a monster back in the day – sleeping with his bandmate’s (John Corbett) wife, drinking himself half to death and generally being his despicable self. 25 years later, not much has changed, but he’s out of money and still without much of a shot at finding the fame and fortune he’s always wanted.
Johnny’s would-be shot at redemption arrives in the form of Gigi (Elizabeth Gillies), the daughter that watched from a distance as Johnny, who was never around, successfully blew up every bid for success he attempted. A fan of the Heathens who possesses a powerful singing voice of her own, Gigi wants to be famous – and so she brings Johnny back together with his acrimonious bandmates, including Flash (Corbett), the guitarist who wants to sleep with Gigi in order to get back at Johnny for sleeping with his wife; Rehab (John Ales), the prescription drug-abusing bassist; and Bam Bam (Robert Kelly), the sweet-natured drummer.
As far a setup for a half-hour comedy goes, it’s not a terrible one, but Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll never evolves beyond the base-level humor (which you’d expect it to yield at first) into something more interesting. The characters are all decently acted clichés, their innate selfishness is the butt of nearly every joke, and the episodes all progress at the same aimless pace. That’s especially frustrating given that Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll marks Leary’s much-heralded return to FX four years after the conclusion of his terrifically underrated series Rescue Me. But let it be said that Johnny Rock is no Tommy Gavin – he’s a one-note drongo, a one-joke wonder who doesn’t progress into anything more remarkable over the course of the series’ first five episodes.