Judging by the latest episode of his Showtime series ‘Roadies’, Cameron Crowe is still feeling awfully butthurt over the bad reviews his last movie got from critics.
The entire premise of episode ‘The Bryce Newman Letter’ is that critics are stupid, awful, hypocritical, disgusting, useless, loathsome wastes of human flesh. Gosh, I wonder if this could be a reaction to how poorly ‘Aloha‘ was treated by critics last year? Do you think?
Rainn Wilson guest-stars as the Bryce Newman of the title, a cartoonishly broad caricature of a music critic who’s introduced cackling to himself in delight at the cleverness of his latest scathing review of a concert he didn’t even see. He of course does this while lounging in his bathrobe in the basement of what I presume is supposed to be his mother’s house. Despite essentially being Comic Book Guy from ‘The Simpsons’ rendered in live-action, Bryce Newman is also somehow an improbably powerful and influential blogger (he insists that his “newsletter” isn’t a blog, but it clearly is) whose work is read religiously by everyone in the music industry. A harsh review from his keyboard (and harsh reviews are the only kind he writes) can topple even an iconic act like the Staton House Band. (In case you’ve forgotten, that’s the name of the fictional music group our roadie characters work for.)
During a tour stop in Atlanta, douchebag money manager Reg comes up with the brilliant idea of inviting Newman backstage, so the crew can wine and dine him and grovel at his feet, until they hopefully convince him to retract his vicious review of the band’s last show. Naturally, nobody else has any interest in doing this. Instead, they’d rather fuck with him. The centerpiece of this comes when hipster barista Wesley doses Newman’s coffee with a powerful hallucinogen, which causes the jerk to trip balls, make an ass of himself to opening act Lindsey Buckingham, and run out on stage buck naked at the start of the show to confess to the audience that he’s a total phony who actually enjoys listening to dad-rock in his minivan.
Fully humiliated and discredited, Newman nonetheless writes a glowing review the next day about how great the crew treated him and how wonderfully the band performed. And all was right with the world.
The episode also has a bunch of other, less consequential storylines. Bill (Luke Wilson) has relationship issues with a girl he only sees once a year, Shelli (Carla Gugino) keeps getting interrupted while trying to have phone sex with her husband, and everyone in the crew bows in deference to Lindsey Buckingham while the entire episode stops dead to watch him perform a song in his dressing room.
Honestly, after covering the pilot episode, I didn’t intend to write any further about this show. ‘Roadies’ isn’t the type of series that requires a recap every week. However, this episode struck me as so transparently defensive and petty on Cameron Crowe’s part that I had to say something about it.
Frankly, I’m perplexed by this. While, yes, I understand Crowe’s desire to lash out at critics after the beating ‘Aloha’ took, the guy is a professional filmmaker who’s been around long enough that he should have a thicker skin. ‘Aloha’ certainly wasn’t the first of his movies to get bad reviews. Considering that Crowe actually started his career as a music journalist, how it’s possible for him to have this much seething hatred for critics just seems bizarre to me.
Although the episode has some funny moments and is at least superficially entertaining, its depiction of a lone dickwad blogger holding so much sway over the music industry makes no sense at all. Perhaps back in the ’70s when Crowe worked for Rolling Stone, a true firebrand critic (such as his mentor Lester Bangs) might have held this sort of influence, but those days are long past. The idea that such a thing could still happen today, much less with an obvious doofus loser like this, is completely ludicrous and divorced from any semblance of reality.