In The Mix

Road Warriors

Showtime's Roadies puts rock-and-roll crews front and center.

Amy Dawes
  • Katie Yu/Showtime
  • Courtesy Showtime
  • Courtesy Showtime
  • Courtesy Showtime

Cameron Crowe's hour-long Showtime comedy Roadies, which premiered June 26, takes a sideways approach to rock-and-roll, shifting the spotlight from the music makers to the crewmembers who make the shows go on.

The first foray into television for the filmmaker — who began his career as a teenage rock journalist for Rolling Stone and later told that tale in Almost Famous — revolves around the backstage vagabonds whose unigue rolling workplace comes with a surrogate family.

"Imagine if the people you worked with, you also lived with — and you lived with them on a very small bus," says showrunner Winnie Holzman, an executive producer of the series along with Crowe, J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk and Len Goldstein.

"These people have given up other lives to live in this intense bubble of being on the road. You have someone sleeping in the bunk above you that you'd never have met if you hadn't thrown yourself into this adventure.  Sometimes they're running from something in their lives — sometimes they're running toward something. It's about discovering what gets revealed when you're living like that."

Luke Wilson and Carla Gugino star as veteran tour managers Bill and Shelli, who oversee the tattooed youngsters rigging cables and such, all the while bantering like a married couple (they're not). The cast also includes Texan comic Ron White, rapper Machine Gun Kelly and British actors Imogen Poots and Rafe Spall.

The latter plays a corporate tool who's been sent to cut costs and "manage the brand" — in this case, a fictional arena-level act called the Staton-House Band, who do not perform in the pilot. That first episode does include a brief sound-check performance by real-life band The Head and the Heart, who join the tour as an opening act.

"There'll be music in every episode," Holzman promises, "but in ways that aren't what you might expect. We'll have real artists every week coming in and out of the storyline."

The soundtrack heard in the pilot features Bob Dylan and Pearl Jam, among others. Says Holzman: "It's a sampling of the music that Cameron loves."

Holzman joined Roadies after Crowe had written the pilot, freeing him to focus on writing and directing more of the 10-episode first season. Author of the Broadway hit musical Wicked and creator of My So-Called Life, she first met Crowe when she took a small role in his hit movie Jerry Maguire and had always hoped for a chance to collaborate.

"There are parallels to what happens on Broadway," she says of Roadies. "It's a crew of people working to give an audience a collective experience that lifts them up. That's been a big part of my world for a long time."

And having been wowed by Bruce Springsteen's recent L.A. performance, Holzman adds: "There's a lot of artistry in what road crews accomplish, and this show is about celebrating that. It's almost like a big thank you."