When you think Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll frontman Johnny Rock, think Mick Jagger without the mindbending fame. Bono without the gravitas. Steven Tyler without the scarves. David Bowie without the longevity.
In fact, take just about any classic rock band’s lead singer and disregard the wealth and stardom, and you’re left with Johnny (played by Rescue Me‘s Denis Leary), the hard-partying face of the 1990s band The Heathens.
As we learn via the “Where the Hell Are They Now?” documentary that kicks off FX’s new series (which Leary executive-produces), The Heathens were an amazing musical act back in the day but broke up — thanks to Johnny’s ballooning ego — the day their first album was released.
“Honestly, if it weren’t for The Heathens, I don’t think there would have been a Nirvana,” Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl says in a cameo.
Now, Johnny is an aging rock god who lives with Ava, one of his backup singers (played by Elaine Hendrix, Mistresses) and wonders how the big time eluded him. (Side note: All those drugs probably didn’t help.) Though he’s moderately friendly with Heathens drummer Bam Bam (Robert Kelly, NYC 22) and bassist Rehab (John Ales, Madman of the People), he’s estranged from lead guitarist Flash (John Corbett, Northern Exposure), who’s gone on to enjoy moderate fame in Lady Gaga’s band.
The series kicks into gear when Johnny hits on a young woman at a bar after a show and finds out (a few moments too late) that she’s actually his daughter via an old hook-up. The daughter, named Gigi (Elizabeth Gillies, Victorious), is a self-assured singer with a proposition for her pop: Get the band back together and write her a song — with Flash — and she’ll pay.
Having recently learned that his best job prospects are cover bands (“Non Bon Jovi” — heh) and bar mitvah gigs, Johnny reluctantly agrees. After all, he tells his former bandmates, Gigi probably won’t have any talent, and they can string her along and have her pay for studio time until they pull something new together. But when she shows up at the recording session and absolutely slays a cover of The Heathens’ “Animal,” Johnny’s reaction — “Oh s—t” — says it all.
The half-hour comedy has colorful characters and the potential for heart, and Leary is in his element as a big talker who secretly hopes that his best days aren’t behind him. The episode’s highlight, though, is Gillies’, whose smoky voice and bangin’ confidence make her a natural standout.
That’s what we thought; now it’s your turn. Grade the premiere via the poll below, then hit the comments to elaborate!