An 18-month ‘band camp’ turned the ‘Daisy Jones & the Six’ cast into rockers
Welcome to Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone who’s worn out their DVD of “Stop Making Sense.”
That’s because Jonathan Demme’s 1984 Talking Heads documentary — one of the greatest concert movies ever made — is one of the inspirations for Prime Video’s new series “Daisy Jones & the Six,” about a Fleetwood Mac-esque rock band’s meteoric rise in 1970s L.A. Series co-creator Scott Neustadter spoke with The Times’ Yvonne Villarreal about building a (fictional) supergroup from scratch, from songwriting to visual cues.
Also in this week’s Screen Gab, a documentary, a competition series, an animated series and a best picture nominee to stream this weekend. And as always, we want to know what you’re watching. Pretend we’re at the water cooler and give us your review of a TV show or streaming movie you’ve loved; it may be included in a future edition of Screen Gab. (Submissions should be approximately 100 to 150 words and sent to email@example.com with your name and location.)
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A weekly chat with actors, writers, directors and more about what they’re working on — and what they’re watching
If there’s a silver lining to “Daisy Jones & the Six” (Prime Video) being a fictional popular rock band that split up far too soon, it’s that none of us have to sell a limb to score tickets to its reunion tour in the same year as Taylor Swift and Beyoncé. Based on the book by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which used an oral history format to chronicle the ascent and demise of a Fleetwood Mac-inspired ‘70s classic rock band that topped that charts and wowed audiences, “Daisy Jones & the Six” makes its splashy debut on Amazon Prime Video this week. The fictional rock group is fronted by Riley Keough as the titular Daisy Jones and Sam Claflin as the charismatic Billy Dunne. Series co-creator and co-showrunner Scott Neustadter stopped by Screen Gab to share his favorite Daisy Jones & the Six song, what he’s watching and more. — Yvonne Villarreal
Were there any TV shows, films or documentaries you turned to for inspiration as you plotted the style and structure of “Daisy Jones & the Six”? If so, what did you draw from them?
I always knew I wanted to retain the novel’s oral history framework, where the characters are telling us their story through the (often unreliable) lens of memory. As such, the move from oral history to rock documentary seemed like a pretty obvious and straightforward one to me. And while there wasn’t any one specific movie or show we tried to mimic, the “rockumentary” style is so prevalent and well known — from “Behind the Music” [Paramount+] to Metallica’s “Some Kind of Monster” [Netflix] or “The History of the Eagles” [VOD, multiple platforms] — that I didn’t think it would require too much hand-holding to be immediately digestible as a structure. I also knew that I wanted the final episode to be a “you are there”-style concert film à la Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense” [Pluto TV, Roku Channel], one of my favorite movies of all time. I wasn’t sure we could pull it off, but I knew if we did it would be epic.
The book is the story of a fake band in a real world. What was the challenge of making this fictional band’s stardom believable — from its members’ charisma and presence onstage to their discography — in relation to real-life counterparts of that era?
Our feeling was that no matter how great the sets look or how well written the scene, if we can’t convince you that Daisy Jones & the Six are a real band we’ve got nothing. That meant putting the actors through a rigorous “band camp,” run by [music supervisor] Frankie [Pine] and supervised by [music consultant] Tony [Berg], where for hours every day they would practice their instruments, learn Blake [Mills]’s brand new songs, work on their stage presence or otherwise just shoot the s— like real bandmates do. That was supposed to last a couple weeks, but because of COVID, we couldn’t start our production on time and the three-week band camp turned into 18 months. By the time we started in fall 2021, the actors weren’t just a convincing facsimile of a rock band, they were a rock band.
The book concludes with lyrics to a handful of the band’s songs, which were written by Reid. Readers have a deep connection to them. How far into things was the decision made to re-tool them with a songwriter?
One of the bigger challenges of the adaptation obviously was in making these songs a reality. The way they’re described in the book — “timeless,” “classic,” “unforgettable” — we kinda knew we had our work cut out for us. And none of us, as Taylor has said many times herself, are actually songwriters. So we went searching for the best. And lucky for us, we found Blake Mills, a legit songsmith, who loved this unique challenge of writing music through the lens of a particular character in a particular headspace in a particular moment in time. What we couldn’t do was ask him to write those songs using lyrics that were previously written. Taylor not only blessed that, she encouraged it, I think because she knew the narrative functions of all those songs would be the same in the show as they are in the novel. For example, the diss track that Billy writes about Daisy and forces her to sing in the book is called “Impossible Woman,” whereas in the series it’s called “More Fun to Miss.” The lyrics aren’t the same, it’s true, but their usages are practically identical.
What’s your favorite Daisy Jones & the Six song?
The truth is my favorite Daisy Jones & the Six song is constantly changing. Right now, it’s “Kill You to Try,” which has a lot of curves and detours and is constantly keeping you on your toes. I also really love “Let Me Down Easy” and an early Dunne Brothers track called “Flip the Switch,” which, incidentally, I wasn’t sure of at first before coming around to its deceptively simple pleasures. My wife loves “Look at Us Now,” and my kids are still obsessed with “Aurora” and “The River,” even after years of being forced to listen to them in the car.
What have you watched recently that you are recommending to everyone you know?
The absolute best thing I’ve seen this past year is the documentary Ethan Hawke made about Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward called “The Last Movie Stars” [HBO Max]. It’s not only an incredibly moving depiction of a marriage and a family, it’s also a really insightful look at the craft of acting. I loved it. If it was 50 hours long, it still would have felt too short for me!
Recommendations from Screen Gab readers
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I viewed this documentary with deep feelings as to what I would do in his situation.
Listings coordinator Matt Cooper highlights the TV shows and streaming movies to keep an eye on
Friday, March 3
“Daisy Jones & the Six” (Prime Video): A rock band makes a name for itself in the 1970s L.A. music scene in this new drama based on the bestselling novel. Riley Keough and Sam Claflin star.
“Next in Fashion” (Netflix): Turn to the left. Supermodel Gigi Hadid is designer Tan France’s new co-host as the competition returns for Season 2.
“Triangle of Sadness” (Hulu): A social media power couple tags along with the super rich on a luxury yacht in Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or-winning 2022 dark comedy. With Woody Harrelson.
“Grand Crew” (NBC, 8:30 p.m.): Nicole Byer and company belly up to the wine bar for a second season of this L.A.-set sitcom.
“Whose Line Is It Anyway?” (The CW, 9 p.m.): “Designated Survivor’s” Maggie Q joins the shenanigans on a new episode of the improv comedy series. Aisha Tyler hosts.
“The Exhibit: Finding The Next Great Artist” (MTV, 9 p.m.): A high-profile museum show and a large chunk of cheddar are on the line in this new competition.
Saturday, March 4
“Act Your Age” (Bounce, 8 and 8:30 p.m.): Kym Whitley, Tisha Campbell and Yvette Nicole Brown play a trio of fiftysomething BFFs in this new D.C.-set comedy.
“Chris Rock: Selective Outrage” (Netflix, 7 p.m.): The veteran comic slaps back in this brand-spanking-new stand-up special streaming live and direct from Baltimore.
“Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards 2023” (Nickelodeon, 7 p.m.): Former NFL player Nate Burleson and social media star Charli D’Amelio co-host the festivities at the Microsoft Theater.
“The Love Club: Nicole’s Pen Pal” (Hallmark, 8 p.m.): An interior designer hooks up with her hunky mystery correspondent in this new TV movie. With Brittany Bristow.
“Black Girl Missing” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.): “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’” Garcelle Beauvais plays a distraught mother desperately seeking her college-age daughter in this new TV movie.
“Saturday Night Live” (NBC, 8:29 and 11:29 p.m.): NFL star Travis Kelce hosts and Kelsea Ballerini performs on a new episode of the sketch comedy series.
Sunday, March 5
“Stranger Next Door” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.): An ex-cop is intrigued by her new neighbor in this new thriller. With Vicky Jeudy.
“Glitch: The Rise & Fall of HQ Trivia” (CNN, 9 p.m.): Another day, another dollar, another over-hyped tech start-up crashes and burns in this new documentary.
“Married by Mistake” (E!, 9 p.m.): What happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas in this new rom-com. With Chloe Bennet (“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”).
“SWV & Xscape: The Queens of R&B” (Bravo, 9 :30 p.m.): Two 1990s-era girl groups are better than one in this new reality series. With Kandi Burruss (“Real Housewives of Atlanta”).
Monday, March 6
“Holding” (Acorn TV): There’s murder most foul in a previously peaceable Irish village in this new mystery drama. “Game of Thrones’” Conleth Hill stars.
“History of the World, Part II” (Hulu; also Tuesday-Thursday): Comedy legend Mel Brooks assembles an all-star cast for this new limited series based on his hysterical 1981 historical satire.
“The Voice” (NBC, 8 p.m.; also 9 p.m. Tuesday): Chance the Rapper and One Direction’s Niall Horan join returning coaches Kelly Clarkson and Blake Shelton in the season premiere.
“Spring Baking Championship” and “Easter Basket Challenge” (Food Network, 10 p.m.): These seasonal competitions are back with new episodes.
“Perry Mason” (HBO, 9 p.m.): Our dogged defense attorney (Matthew Rhys) is on the case as this reimagining of the classic courtroom drama returns for Season 2.
“Rock the Block” (HGTV, 9 p.m.): The home renovation competition hosted by Ty Pennington is also back with new episodes.
“Jared From Subway: Catching a Monster” (Investigation Discovery, 9, 10 and 11 p.m.): This new three-part doc details the case against the former sandwich-chain pitchman and convicted child sex predator.
“Rain Dogs” (HBO, 10 p.m.): Mum’s the word in this new dark comedy about a working-class single mom in Britain. With Daisy May Cooper.
Tuesday, March 7
“Who Killed Robert Wone?” (Peacock): The mysterious death of a young attorney in Washington, D.C., in 2006 is reexamined in this new two-part documentary.
“That’s My Jam” (NBC, 9 p.m.): This star-studded variety hour/game show hosted by Jimmy Fallon kicks off a second season.
“Icons Unearthed” (Vice, 9 p.m.): The origins of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — or MCU, for short — are explored in a new edition in this pop-culture series.
“Blood & Money” (CNBC, 10 p.m.; also OWN, 9 p.m. Saturday): This new series from “Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf features real-life cases in which greed gave way ... to murder.
“Houses With History” (HGTV, 10 p.m.): Our intrepid trio of preservationists reassemble for new episodes of this home renovation series.
Wednesday, March 8
“MH370: The Plane That Disappeared” (Netflix): This new docuseries probes the fate of the Malaysian Airlines passenger jet that vanished without a trace in 2014.
“The Challenge: World Championship” (MTV, 8 p.m.): The best of the best from the U.S., U.K. and Aussie editions of the long-lived reality competition do battle in this new spinoff.
“Farmer Wants a Wife” (Fox, 9 p.m.): And the cheese stands alone in this new dating competition hosted by country music’s Jennifer Nettles.
Thursday, March 9
“School Spirits” (Paramount+): A dearly departed teen must solve her own murder in this new supernatural drama. “Cobra Kai’s” Peyton List stars.
“You” (Netflix): This psychological thriller starring Penn Badgley is back with the back half of its fourth season.
“The Torso Killer Confessions” (A&E, 9 p.m.; also Friday): This new two-part special recalls a gruesome series of murders in the New York area in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.
“Top Chef” (Bravo, 9 p.m.): Host/judge Padma Lakshmi presides over a 20th season of the culinary competition.
“Beyond Fentanyl” (Vice, 11 p.m.): This new exposé sounds the alarm about the next generation of illegal narcotics.
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