Idiot Box: “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” On Fx

“Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” On Fx

Devin D. O'Leary
3 min read
Rawk Gawd
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Denis Leary’s acid-tongued brand of comedy has always felt sort of rock and roll. The leather jackets, the cigarettes, the packed arenas, the self-abusing persona: The only thing missing is the guitar. So it seems like a perfect match to cast Leary as a burned-out rock star in FX’ musical comedy “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll.” Leary, looser and cheekier than he’s ever been, is perfectly cast. Unfortunately, the show is more MOR than punk.

Leary plays Johnny Rock (yeah, the show is that clever), legendary leader of the ’90s flash-in-the-pan rock band The Heathens. Some 25 years after his one-off success, Johnny has fallen on hard times. After decades of drug and alcohol abuse (not to mention having slept with the girlfriends of every one of his band members), Johnny is alone, friendless and broke. His fortune changes, however, when he runs into Gigi (Elizabeth Gillies from Nickelodeon’s “Victorious”), the daughter he never knew he had from a previous backstage assignation. She’s young, sexy and incredibly talented. Thanks to a timely reunion of Johnny’s old bandmates (John Corbett, Robert Kelly and John Ales), she’s also the new lead singer of The Heathens.

Johnny sticks around as the band’s chief songwriter, fighting with his still-angry bandmates and weighing his jealousy/pride over his daughter’s newfound success. A lot of the jokes, at least to start, center around Gigi’s sexual attractiveness. She’s hot all right, but the show crafts a few too many jokes centered around her various body parts. Also, John Corbett’s character spends an inordinate amount of time deciding if he should sleep with her in order to get revenge on Johnny. It’s a little creepy. Scratch that: It’s a lot creepy. But at least the show knows it, aiming for a self-aware sleaziness and bagging on aging rock stars for their long-past-their-prime lasciviousness.

Leary, who also writes the show, doesn’t give it half the sharp bite of his previous series “Rescue Me.” This one lacks the real-world drama and the cancerous self-loathing (to say nothing of the heartbreaking mortality rate). After exploring traumatically stressed firefighters in the post-9/11 world, hanging out with faded ’90s rock stars seems a bit … frivolous. Still, there’s something at the heart of “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” that works. Leary is in his element, Gillies has got serious presence, and the music industry is always in need of skewering. If Leary can infuse the show with a bit more of those hard lessons “Rescue Me” loved to impart, then this new venture could find its groove. For now, this series looks like it’s just starting to tune up.

“Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” airs Thursdays at 11pm.

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