Against all odds, the latest episode of Denis Leary’s FX vehicle, Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, provided some unexpected laughs and occasionally, almost-convincing dramatic moments. In “Lust for Life,” the relationship between Gigi and Johnny Rock becomes a point of focus (could it be the show’s main focus?). This meant that there was a significantly reduced count on the hackneyed jokes about what a great body Gigi has, which seemed to take up a cumulative 65% of the previous two episodes.

The most humorous segment of the show takes place with the band’s manager, Ira (Josh Pais), puts a hoax out claiming that Johnny has died in a freak accident, hoping to rake in some post-mortem record sales. The band debates the most legendary way Johnny could have died, but finds that most ways have already been taken by rock martyrs. Ava receives consolation flowers for her loss — in the process, she reveals to Johnny that she once slept with Bon Jovi minus the “asshole” bass player. Rolling Stone gives Johnny a humorous pathetic video tribute on the Rolling Stone website; Joan Jett and (hilariously) former MTV hard rock VJ Matt Pinfield cameo.

Gigi spends the episode working through her self-doubt, showing a new, more vulnerable side. The first point of contention is Johnny struggling to tell her he loves her; Gigi, on the other hand, professes to having loved him since before she met him, having “traveled across the country” to meet him. She then suffers from stage fright going into a big gig at Brooklyn venue Glasslands (!). Ultimately, her performance of a piano power-ballad Johnny wrote for her about their relationship tacitly resolves the conflict, and makes it clear that Gigi has the potential to be a real star.

Though this is by far the most engaging and least-cringeworthy episode of S&D&R&R that we’ve seen, the dramatic plotline feels like it’s been foisted on us before we had a chance to begin to understand or care about these characters. Emotions are still described to us rather than shown, outside of Leary’s Visine tears during the Glasslands set. Nonetheless, the Gigi/Johnny plotline has potential, and in this case, it overshadowed some typically awkward comic bits and distracted from some groaner, too-deliberate one-liners (Ava: “Suck it, Oasis!”)

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