What’s Worth Watching: ‘Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll’ on FX for Thursday, August 27

Jeffrey Neira/FX
Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll - "Tattoo You" -- Ep 106 (Airs Thursday, August 20, 10:00 pm e/p) -- Pictured: Denis Leary as Johnny. CR. Jeffrey Neira/FX

Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, “SupercalifragilisticJuliefriggingAndrews” (Thursday, Aug. 27, 10/9c, FX)

Casting masterstroke of the week: hiring the great Kelly Bishop (Gilmore Girls, Bunheads) as Elizabeth, the caustic stage-diva mother of Denis Leary’s put-upon Johnny Rock. Seems it takes a never-was to know a has-been, and hearing about Elizabeth’s brush with musical-comedy greatness—rhymes with “Dairy Croppins”—is almost as wrenching as Johnny’s own oh-so-close non-success story. (When the band looks at publicity shots of ’70s-era Bishop, it’s a jolting reminder of the sizzling hoofer who won a Tony for the legendary original production of A Chorus Line.)

Theirs isn’t the warmest mother-son reunion when she calls Johnny to book his band to play her latest wedding (gratis, naturally), only to learn that the lead singer will be the granddaughter she never knew existed. Young Gigi (Elizabeth Gillies) may be a handful, but Elizabeth is too too much—and Bishop makes the most of it in this delightfully tart episode. It’s not hard to see where Johnny gets his delusions of stardom, once Elizabeth introduces her suspiciously fey groom (Roger Bart), who’s conducting interviews on the side for an autobiographical film about Elizabeth’s “I’m still here” career. As Elizabeth remarks: “Now that Elaine Stritch is finally dead, there’s an opening for a new Great Dame of Broadway, and I plan on beating Tyne Daly to that spot.” Wouldn’t put it past her.

Forget the song list. The joke list covers everyone from Julie Andrews and Liza Minnelli to Billy Joel, and even without the spectacle of The Assassins wearing retro glam wigs and prom costumes, this is an episode that rocks, rolls—and belts.