Whats Worth Watching: ‘Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll’ on FX for Thursday, July 16
Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, “Don’t Wanna Die Anonymous” (Thursday, July 16, 10/9c, FX)
There’s something to be said for typecasting—if the type is Denis Leary and the network is FX, for which it’s hard to imagine a better fit. The Rescue Me star is back where he belongs: funky, irascible and bitterly, hilariously flawed as aging toxic rocker Johnny Rock in the perfectly titled (if affectedly spelled) Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll.
Leary has a way of making even the most appalling behavior seem somehow endearing, but Johnny and his short-lived ’90s band The Heathens are pushing it. They’re the saddest kind of rock legends: famous for having blown their one shot at fame, when the band broke up on the eve of their first album release, a result of Johnny’s many self-destructive habits (including sleeping with his bandmates’ women). Though the likes of Dave Grohl still fondly remember The Heathens’ brief and debauched heyday as a life-changing influence, Johnny remains a rock star only in his own mind, refusing to do covers or let others cover his material. “The dream is over,” his long-suffering manager tries to convince this currently “unbookable artist,” but SDRR turns out to be a show about second chances, deserved or not. Johnny and his fellow Heathens (including the splendid John Corbett as “Flash,” who’s raking it in as a guitarist for Gaga) get their shot when Gigi (terrific Elizabeth Gillies), a sexy siren with a connection to Johnny’s and The Heathens’ past, enlists their services “to help me get famous.”
Cue warring egos as the series casts a jaundiced, caustic look at the cheapening of fame in a world of Kardashians, while Johnny and his grizzled band of miscreants threaten to backslide into old patterns of past bad behavior when their celebrity is rekindled (thanks in part to a death hoax perpetrated in a future episode). “You’re like a symphony of narcissism,” a frustrated Zen therapist (a very funny Griffin Dunne) concludes in the fifth episode, after trying to enlighten the band on its excesses and insecurities. A fool’s errand, because as Johnny’s still-loyal lady Ava (Elaine Hendrix) points out, “This ain’t no democracy, OK? It’s a dictatorship, always on the verge of a military coup. Cause that’s how rock ‘n’ roll bands work!” Rock on, Leary & Co. Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll even offers original music along the way, making this a show that (as they might have said on American Bandstand) has a beat and you can laugh to it.