When I heard about Denis Leary writing, creating, directing and starring in a FX television about an old rock n’roll band getting a fresh coat of paint, I was excited. After all, Leary cemented his status as a TV genius with his heralded 9/11 series, Rescue Me. A show that blended comedy, drama and was a classy ode to fallen firefighters for many seasons. That bought him a do whatever you want license from FX, and he chose to sink his teeth into an old rock lion trying to make a comeback. The idea couldn’t miss, but it did. Here’s why.
Unlike Rescue Me, Leary never punched the audience in the gut with a vigorous speech or a moment that made you step back and go, “wow”. There were five of those during the first six episodes of Rescue Me. I know the shows are drastically different, but Leary doesn’t pull any punches in any genre so I was disappointed when the final episode of SDRR aired last week and fizzled. It came and went. It was mundane. Ordinary. Punchless. Weak. Those are words I don’t associate with Leary entertainment.
Leary’s Johnny Rock had some direction, and even a few juicy one liners and jokes about real bands. The supporting cast of John Corbett, Robert Kelly, Elizabeth Gilles, and Elaine Hendrix. The first few episodes set up a cool story line about Rock’s daughter(Gilles) coming back to enliven the separated band, The Heathens. Corbett’s Flash had some good moments with Leary but it was far too “networky”. By that, it reeked of network television drool, something FX has largely avoided with most of its series. With only 10 episodes to tell its season story, the show never locked down a tone. It went in dramatic directions and always tried to give everything a light touch. Sometimes, a little edge was needed and left out of scenes. This was Diet Leary. Something I hoped I’d never taste on television.
Is it terrible? No. Some of the episodes worked but the story fizzled overall and does not leave me wanting more. FX let the final episodes air without announcing an end or a future. That only tells me their thoughts on the series don’t fall too far from mine.
I am sure Leary can fire another gem up for FX. He’s got a unique storytelling ability and can do most of the work himself. Would this show have worked on HBO or Showtime? No. A dirtier edgier network wouldn’t have given this show a touch of greatness.
In the end, SDRR just fell short of expectations, lacking the usual bite and punch one has come to expect with Leary entertainment.