Daisy Jones & The Six by author Taylor Jenkins Reid hit shelves in March of 2019 and soon landed on the New York Times bestseller list and became a pick for Reese Witherspoon’s book club. But months before, in July of 2018, it was announced that Witherspoon was executive producing an Amazon Prime Video limited series based on the book under her production company Hello Sunshine. Actress Riley Keough (Zola), the granddaughter of Elvis Presley the king of rock and roll himself, was cast as the titular Daisy Jones and The Hunger Games star Sam Claflin as her co-star, playing Billy Dunne, lead singer of The Six.
Daisy Jones & The Six follows the rise and demise of a fictional 1970s rock band, inspired by Taylor Jenkins Reid’s experiences watching Fleetwood Mac and singer Stevie Nicks live. Daisy Jones & The Six were on top of the world in 1977, but they unexpectedly split up after a sold-out show at Chicago’s Soldier Field and soon faded into obscurity. Prime Video’s musical-drama limited series wrestles with topics such as addiction and infidelity while exploring the relationships between the band’s members, particularly Daisy and guitarist Billy as they share lead singing duties. Both enormously talented songwriters, they find themselves drawn to each other and frustrated with one another due to the circumstances that keep them apart.
Riley Keough and Sam Claflin both look the part of confident singer and rockstar. The chemistry between the two waxes and wanes, yet when they hit their stride, the tension is palpable. Their voices pair together well with the songs of Prime Video’s Daisy Jones & The Six, harmonizing wonderfully on an album written for the show by Blake Mills with contributions from artists like Phoebe Bridgers, Jackson Browne, and Marcus Mumford. It’s always a joy when a musical series has a very strong original soundtrack to accompany it as well.
Taylor Jenkins Reid’s best-selling novel is told in interview format, with accounts from the various band members in their 70s many years after their breakup. The audiobook takes full advantage of this kind of narrative framing, performed with a 21-person full cast. The streaming adaptation of Daisy Jones & The Six retains the documentary interview style, though they are far younger, while intercutting in the scenes the cast describes. Whereas the book uses the reflective poignancy of a personal interview effectively to cut to the heart of a character or scene, the limited series does not share that strength unfortunately. The interview format is vastly underutilized and feels like it has very little reason to be included.
Instead, many quiet scenes in Daisy Jones & The Six are heightened in emotional intensity and blatant confrontations. Of course, the method of delivery must change when adapting a novel to the screen, but the approach seen in the Amazon show teeters on melodrama. It sacrifices intimacy for bigger, more dramatic displays. Much of the nuance of the book is lost because every point the limited series makes is blatantly explained to the audience during a confrontation. The story also carries less weight since there is little contrast between smaller intense moments and large fights. It’s less realistic to put it simply. The quiet horror of both Daisy’s and Billy’s addiction is lost in the noise of them yelling about their brokenness. This sort of melodrama certainly has an appeal, however, it is different from the book’s more pointed approach.
There are a few new subplots in this adaptation, added mostly for the purpose of extra conflict. Both Camila Dunne, Billy’s wife played by Camila Morrone, and Simone Jackson, Daisy’s best friend played by Nabiyah Be, have more to do. The audience sees more of their reaction to having to deal with Billy and Daisy’s selfishness, and they have more to get off their chest than their book counterparts. They are allowed to be more active participants in the story. For Simone, this works well, as she has increased autonomy; a life, career, and relationships of her own. For Camila, it creates deeper dramatic tension in the show’s main love triangle at the cost of the book’s themes about faith. Her presence in her husband’s life is less of an anchor and instead another thing he must balance against both his temptations and aspirations with Daisy.
The performances from the supporting band members and cast in Daisy Jones & The Six all mesh well together. This includes Billy’s younger brother and lead guitarist Graham Dunne (Will Harrison), bassist Eddie Roundtree (Josh Whitehouse), keyboard player Karen Sirko (Suki Waterhouse), and drummer Warren Rhodes (Sebastian Chacon). One character who notably stands out is Tom Wright as Teddy Price, a producer who helps shape the iconic band’s fame. Wright gives the producer a presence that was lacking in the book, and for the better. He has more of a fatherly relationship with Daisy, Billy, and Simone, and it ties the show together more cohesively. A special guest appearance from Timothy Olyphant as the band’s manager Rod Reyes also deserves a shoutout.
The aesthetic alone of Daisy Jones & The Six will be enough to retain most viewers. The ’70s rock and roll scene sweeping LA’s Sunset Strip is distinct and intriguing. The fashion and set pieces are true to the era while feeling incredibly modern at the same time. The drama between two charismatic lead singers who have to work together and fight their attraction for one another is inherently riveting. However, if the audience searches any deeper than that, they won’t find much. There are as many elements in Prime Video’s limited series adaptation of Daisy Jones & The Six that are compelling as there are one-note. All the music is as fun as it should be, at least.