For those of us who came of age with Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” in 1977 and Stevie Nicks’s debut solo album “Bella Donna” in 1981, “Daisy Jones & the Six,” a miniseries developed by Scott Neustader and Michael H. Weber, is a tease. Based on Taylor Jenkins Reid’s 2019 novel of the same name, the series focuses on the rise and abrupt split of a 1970s LA rock band modeled on FM.
Daisy (Riley Keough doing her singing) is the stand-in for Stevie while Sam Claflin (also doing his vocals) is Billy Dunne, the lead singer of “The Six,” a failing rock group from Pittsburgh who, at the suggestion of their record producer, is joined by Daisy for a single track on their new album. The track becomes a massive “Dreams” – like sensation, and the album goes to number one. Billy is an obvious stand-in for Nicks’s boyfriend at the time, Lindsey Buckingham, one of the great lead guitarists and the anchor of FM.
Originality is not the series’s strong suit. The narrative is interrupted at intervals by documentary-style interviews with the band members twenty years later. The big question is, why did the band break up at the height of its popularity? As a result, we feel like we are watching a remake (or sequel) to 1983’s “Eddie and the Cruisers,” only this time round, the allusions are to Fleetwood Mac instead of The Doors.
Musical genius is an almost impossible thing to get across on screen, and Keogh, despite being quite good, cannot even begin to transform herself into the legend that is Stevie Nicks. Daisy is a poor, little rich girl who gets no love from her parents. She writes poems and lyrics in her little red book and talks about Carole King. As an underage teenager in 1968, she visits the Whiskey and sees The Doors (of course!) in concert. In other words, all of the little boxes are ticked off, but, being a series of cliches, they don’t leave much of an impression. I kept thinking of the opening scene in that old Warner Bros. chestnut “Rhapsody in Blue,” which gave us a Hollywood-eye-view of the short life of George Gershwin. When the Gershwin family’s first piano arrives, poor Ira is fiddling with the keys, only to be immediately banished by the parents in favor of George. Not everyone is as wise or communicative as the Gershwins in spotting a genius in the family!
For me, the only scene in the series that worked was when Daisy joined the boys on stage for the first time and refused to get off. There is one magical moment when Keogh and Claflin share the mic – the songs, written by various songwriters, are in the style of “Rumours”-era Mac, and they are hummable and catchy. All eleven songs have been released as soundtracks entitled “Aurora,” and it’s made the Billboard Top 50 with “Regret Me” and “ Look at Us Now” released as singles.
It is the series’ single moment of greatness. There is also an excellent and exciting subplot involving Daisy’s best friend and roommate, Simone, who is gay. She is well-played by Nabiyah Be. Otherwise, the series is very watchable but unsatisfying. And for those who lived through the “Rumours” phenomenon, it’s a little sad. Or maybe that was the point!