The drug-fuelled, inventive and revolutionary seventies American music scene is fertile ground for storytelling. Taylor Jenkins Reid certainly found so when she wrote Daisy Jones and The Six, her 2019 novel about a fictional rock band, inspired by the fraught relationships that bound and eventually tore apart Fleetwood Mac. Immersive, entertaining and charged with hedonism, the book was a hit — which is why it’s such a shame Prime Video’s adaptation falls flat.
Our first introduction to the band who would eventually become Daisy Jones and The Six is not in their heyday, but decades later as they sit down to tell their story to a journalist and her camera. While the book takes the form of a faux oral history, the series is half mockumentary — with the band as talking heads — half drama. It’s an ambitious device, but it doesn’t quite work. In fact, occasionally dodgy acting and a guileless, often cringe-inducing script, renders it entirely unbelievable.
Things get better, thankfully, when the show becomes a straightforward drama. Riley Keough (perhaps cast for her own rock’n’roll pedigree as Elvis Presley’s granddaughter) is perfect as the electric whirlwind frontwoman Daisy Jones. She is rude, self-centered and addicted to any and all drugs, but her talent and gutsy ambition make her a character to root for despite her many flaws.
Her counterpart is Billy Dunne, played by Sam Claflin, who doesn’t wear the seventies cool with quite as much ease. Billy is a recovering alcoholic, so his uptight, sometimes condescending, nature makes some sense. Over 10 episodes, Billy and Daisy revolve around one another, boomeranging from love to hate to love again, despite the fact that Billy is married to his teenage sweetheart Camila (Camila Morrone, excellent).
All the while, the band — made up of keyboardist Karen Sirko (Suki Waterhouse), guitarist Graham Dunne (Will Harrison), drummer Warren Rhodes (Sebastian Chacon) and bassist Eddie Roundtree (Josh Whitehouse), as well as Daisy and Billy — is growing in fame and success. It’s a very busy series: we get storylines about Karen and Graham’s secret romance, Daisy’s friend Simone Jackson (Nabiyah Be), who makes it in the world of New York disco, and we even take a trip to the islands of Greece. But it’s all very slow going, and after the first three episodes (streaming from Friday, with the rest to follow in weekly batches) you might be wondering if the story, and the band, will ever leave their native Pittsburgh.
While fun and charming, Daisy Jones and The Six never goes deeper than the surface level of its characters. The script is littered with clichés (“I’ve never been OK,” mutters Billy in a moment of crisis; “Why are we so unhappy?” Daisy asks him) and meaningless platitudes (“The chosen ones never know they are chosen”), revoking any naturalism the mock rockumentary style needs to work. Billy and Daisy’s torrid love/hate relationship is supposed to be one for the ages, but their interactions never go beyond placidly enjoying each other’s company or throwing insults at one another. The sets feel like sets, the scenes somewhat forced.
The saving grace is the music. Not only is the soundtrack, stuffed with songs from The Rolling Stones, Faces, and, of course, Fleetwood Mac, a reminder of the brilliant music of the era, the tracks from Daisy Jones and The Six fit right in. Written with the help of Phoebe Bridgers, Marcus Mumford and other musicians, the fictional band’s album, Aurora, is good enough to be released as its own entity (it will, in fact, be available on streaming platforms from Friday). Even the obvious autotune on Claflin’s voice doesn’t dampen the folky rock vibe. I haven’t been able to get “Look At Us Now (Honeycomb)” — the fictional answer to Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” — out of my head for days.
With a better script, a looser concept and fewer episodes, Daisy Jones and The Six could have been something really special. In its worst moments, however, it’s a banal, thin love story without enough grit or cool laissez-faire to emulate what makes seventies rock bands so fascinating. Unlike many rockstars of the era, I’m glad there won’t be a reunion tour.
Daisy Jones and The Six is streaming on Prime Video from Friday 3 March