Writing about music is naturally difficult because nothing beats hearing a real song, especially if the band doesn’t actually exist. Taylor Jenkins Reid’s 2019 novel Daisy Jones and the Six, about a fictional 1970s rock band who break up at the height of their fame, told a compelling story but lacked that immersive, sonic experience. That’s why the ten-part adaptation of the book, made for Prime Video by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, is so effective.
The episodes unfold in a documentary format, mirroring the novel, written as a fictional tell-all interview of the various band members. Here it’s like watching a docuseries, where the characters offer explanations and insight to the camera as the story plays out on screen. An engaging and believable Riley Keough is Daisy Jones, a drug-addicted singer and songwriter looking for a way to share her music. Finally getting his comeuppance, Sam Claflin is Billy Dunne, leader of the Pittsburgh rock group The Six, who is missing an important piece of the puzzle. After moving to Hollywood, Billy comes into contact with big time producer Teddy Price (Tom Wright), who orchestrates a collaboration between Daisy and the Six.
The ensuing drama is, of course, what drives both the novel and the series. Daisy and Billy have a contentious relationship that leads to passionate songwriting – and until Daisy is officially added to the Six. Although Billy is married to a photographer named Camila (Camila Morrone), he and Daisy struggle with attraction and hatred in equal measure. Meanwhile, Billy’s brother and Six guitarist Graham (Will Harrison) fall in love with their keyboardist Karen Sirko (Suki Waterhouse, at her most charismatic), adding further tension to the group.
In the novel, Daisy Jones & the Six write and record their debut album, Aurora. While Jenkins gives Reid a strong feel for the music in the book, watching its creation and hearing the band is the highlight of the series. So much so that Atlantic Records releases the actual LP, written and co-written by Blake Mills, on the same day the show premieres on Prime Video, with more tracks available to follow digitally. Keough and Claflin embody rock stars so completely it’s hard to believe neither of them has actually sung or played before. The directors, including James Ponsoldt and Nzingha Stewart, give viewers ample opportunity to enjoy their collaborations, both in the studio and on stage.
Some episodes work better than others, but Daisy Jones and the Six is ultimately a very enjoyable show. It helps that the cast isn’t super famous – Nabiyah Be, who plays disco singer and Daisy’s BFF Simone Jackson is a great find – because it feels like you’re actually watching a rock band discuss their actual rise to stardom. The real-life touches, like when the band performs Saturday Night Live or when the characters visit places like the Troubadour add to that sense of possibility. Jenkins Reid was inspired by Fleetwood Mac when she wrote the novel and that influence is also present in the series, especially in Daisy’s look and mood.
Not every journey from book to screen is seamless, but this is one case where the TV version is better than the source material (which isn’t a knock on the novel). At the end of the series, you believe that this was a real band, because you can see and, above all, hear them. Fans of classic rock, who may not have heard of the book, will find this just as captivating as those who really wanted to see Daisy and Billy on screen. Daisy Jones & the Six may be fictional, but it’s a joy to see them come to life like this.