“Greg Dulli stole my vibe, Dave Grohl stole my aura” — Johnny Rock
Another week, another episode of the show Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll. This one is called “Doctor Doctor.” When you return to your TV or screen to watch this show every week, the passage of time feels weighty — you feel life a bit harder, your life passing you by, another twenty-five minutes gone like smoke through the proverbial keyhole. But that bit of friendly Weltschmerz is appropriate: Life is always getting a bit ahead of the characters too. In the experience of watching them, you feel their struggle.
You feel Johnny realizing he’s rocking the same ‘do he had “in 1992” — visually somewhere between Bryan Adams’ classic look and Joe Dirt. He’s clinging to his glory days! You feel Flash’s obsession with remaining young, the fear presaging his overactive hair dye regimen and his desire to sleep with Gigi to get back at Johnny for doing the same with his wife several decades ago. You feel Bam Bam’s (the drummer’s) struggle to not secretly order pepperoni pizza (ha, he’s fat, get it?). You can measure Bam Bam’s life in all his pepperoni pizza backdoor sneak orders, like Eliot’s Prufrock did with coffee spoons.
Our beloved gang, band or “tribe” (as they are called in this episode) make all of these important realizations during an intensive program with a parody of a psychotherapist-cum-shaman. This was foreshadowed at the end of the previous episode, but before it seemed like only Johnny was going, as a condition for being allowed to remain in the band. But no, the whole gang goes; in separate and group sessions with the flaky, “Yanni”-esque therapist (as Ava puts it), they try to heal their wounds and become a functional “family.”
What this plot conceit means is that there are a lot of group, semi-improved comedic scenes, and montages — little to no actual plot. As I’ve commented before, these conflagrations of the cast riffing on each other’s “jokes” and insulting each other is part of the lifeblood of this show; there is one giant spat in every episode now. The journey is the group’s; almost never do we split off to focus on one person’s struggle, or see anything behind closed doors. It is about who the characters are in the context of the band, and to each other.
The result of this, though, is an entropic effect where it seems like the actors are constantly scrambling to be funnier than one another. They over-deliver their punchlines, wide-eyed, as if each is their Big Moment of the episode. It kills the possibility of many jokes landing. Gigi, most notably, seems to struggle with humor, making her battle with Johnny to name celebrities from pictures (in a nonsensical bonding exercise proposed by the guru) one of the most cringe-inducing parts of the episode. You could also tell that there was heavy improvisation here (see quips about Chloë Moretz and Lindsay Lohan looking nothing alike, “Jeff Harrison” instead of George, etc.) Gigi also wins the medal for delivering the episode’s worst line, a description of a ukulele that is unveiled dramatically, like a brand new Phantom made entirely of turds: “I hate that midget Game of Thrones guitar!”
Ultimately, the episode truly amounts to nothing. Like any good episodic sitcom (something this show is not, or even trying to be), all the characters go back to being exactly the same at the end, after the therapist freaks out in frustration and deems them untreatable. They are, the claims to the band’s delight, the “the most fucked-up band in the history of rock’n’roll.”
With each new episode, it seems like whatever plot the show is loosely trying to further is spinning its wheels perpetually — the goal now is to just land the characters in a specific outlandish situation for the full half-hour and riff away. The other thing it’s clearly doing is upping the count of the word “asshole,” which ends every fifth sentence spoken on screen. There’s no way to know where this enterprise is headed, other than probably some big formative musical screen and a serious expression of familial love between Gigi and Johnny that is constantly just out of reach.