You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll’

Denis Leary, John Corbett, Elizabeth Gillies, Elaine Hendrix, Robert Kelly, John Ales

“Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” is a great title, a good premise and a just-OK show. That’s in part because Denis Leary, who created and stars in the FX comedy, and even worked on the original songs, deviates from the aging-rock-god concept to incorporate a semi-touchy-feely, certainly sitcom-like element: his central character discovers he has a grown daughter he never knew, which provides him the excuse to reunite the band. Still fun in fits and starts, the series begins with enough energy to help it coast along, abetted by rock cameos that provide an additional helping of street cred.

Opening with what feels like a mockumentary section, the show quickly details the meteoric rise of the Heathens, a 1990 band headlined by Leary’s lead singer Johnny Rock and guitar player Flash (John Corbett), who teamed to write the group’s signature songs. But the band partied hard and flamed out, leaving Johnny clinging to the remnants of his fame when Gigi (Elizabeth Gillies) shows up, informing him that she’s the kid he didn’t know he had.

What’s more, Gigi has a great set of pipes, and is less interested in a fuzzy reunion than tapping into Johnny’s creative skills, which means seeking to repair his estranged ties to Flash, drummer Bam Bam (Robert Kelly) and bass player Rehab (John Ales). “I don’t need a dad,” Gigi sneers. “I need a g-damn songwriter.”

Still, Johnny and Gigi immediately jump over the awkward part of this newfound relationship and settle in to her cracking wise and him slipping into overprotective dad mode, worrying excessively about her sleeping with Flash (or for that matter, anyone). Gillies has a powerful voice — and the early episodes give her ample opportunity to showcase it — but the writing of her character is the show’s weak link, and a general drag on the proceedings.

“Sex & Drugs” fares best in its smaller moments, riffing on Johnny’s absurd attachment to the insane perks that go with being a rock star when they land an out-of-town gig, exploring his inability to write a song while sober, and playing off his lingering excitement over being recognized, only to learn his “fans” think he’s Christopher Walken. A later episode features the group seeking therapy with a sort of rock-star-whisperer (guest Griffin Dunne), which merely exposes how messed up and self-absorbed every one of them is.

Leary has clearly thrown his all (which includes sporting an early Hall & Oates hairdo) into the project, exhibiting a genuine love for rock and its attendant excesses. Still, that’s not particularly new territory, which raises the bar somewhat for the show in terms of expectations and bringing something fresh to the mix.

“Sex & Drugs” premieres along with the second season of “Married,” and extends a Leary-FX collaboration that yielded a lengthy run with “Rescue Me.” Ultimately, though, as satires based on fictional rock bands go, and measured on a “This Is Spinal Tap” scale of 1 to 10 (“Spinal Tap,” of course, being an 11), give “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” about a seven. It’s got a good beat, and you can dance to it.

TV Review: 'Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll'

(Series; FX, Thur. July 16, 10 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in New York by Apostle in association with Fox 21 Television Studios.

Crew: Executive producers, Denis Leary, Jim Serpico; co-executive producers, Kerry Orent, Tom Sellitti; director, Michael Blieden; writer, Leary; camera, William R. Nielsen Jr.; production designer, Bruton Jones; editor, Elizabeth Merrick; music, Leary, Chris Phillips; song producer, Greg Dulli; casting, Julie Tucker, Ross Meyerson. 30 MIN.

Cast: Denis Leary, John Corbett, Elizabeth Gillies, Elaine Hendrix, Robert Kelly, John Ales

More TV

  • WGA Authorizing Managers, Lawyers to Make

    WGA Authorizing Managers, Lawyers to Make Deals if Agents are Fired

    The Writers Guild of America has authorized managers and lawyers to negotiate deals for writers in place of agents — if the guild tells members to fire their agents on April 7. The guild’s negotiating committee notified members of the plans in a message Wednesday. The WGA and the Association of Talent Agents having made [...]

  • Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna'Jane

    Rachel Bloom on the 'Beautiful Mystery' of the 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' Series Finale

    While four seasons of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” have explored musical genres from boy bands to country, the one type of music series co-creator and star Rachel Bloom admits the show will not explore before the end is Rebecca’s own style. “Basically the idea is that part of the music in her mind is her looking inside [...]

  • Netflix's Lisa Nishimura Named Indie Film,

    Netflix's Lisa Nishimura Named Indie Film, Documentary Features Head

    In the wake of Bela Bajaria’s recent move to lead Netflix’s international non-English original TV series, the online streamer is shuffling its leadership team to more clearly distinguish between development of its English and non-English language content. As a result, Netflix has elevated Lisa Nishimura to vice president of independent film and documentary features, a [...]

  • Family Guy Bob's Burgers

    Fox Entertainment Lays Out Programming Slate in Post-Disney Merger Sizzle Reel (Watch)

    Fox Entertainment unveiled a new sizzle reel on Wednesday night in the wake of the Disney-21st Century Fox merger officially closing, with the broadcaster touting its current series roster. The video features both scripted and unscripted programming across Fox’s lineup. Among the shows featured are legacy series like “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” and “Empire.” In [...]

  • Katherine Heigl

    Katherine Heigl Cast as Lead in CBS Comedy Pilot

    Katherine Heigl has been cast as the female lead in the CBS comedy pilot “Our House,” Variety has learned. The show centers around a devoted mom (Heigl) and dad, who are committed to raising their children with the love and support the mom never got as a kid, but discover how difficult that is with her insane [...]

  • Jussie Smollett Lee Daniels

    Lee Daniels Reveals the 'Empire' Team's 'Anger' and 'Sadness' at the Jussie Smollett Fallout

    In a video posted to his Instagram Wednesday afternoon, “Empire” creator Lee Daniels has let everybody know how he feels about the Jussie Smollett “incident.” “These past couple of weeks have been a freakin’ rollercoaster,” Daniels said in the video. “Me and my cast have experienced pain, anger, sadness and frustration, and really don’t know [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content