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‘Roadies’ Strikes a Romantic Chord

Showtime executives are singing the praises of Roadies, the upcoming dramedy about a group of men and women who travel from city to city erecting and breaking down concert sets for a touring rock band. The series, which debuts on Sunday (June 26), was created by Oscar winner Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous) and executive produced by Winnie Holzman, who also produced the 1990s series My So-Called Life.

Holzman, who also is developing the Broadway play Wicked into a feature film, spoke with Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead about the new series, how Showtime played the right notes in getting it developed and her experiences working with Crowe. An edited excerpt follows.

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MCN:Where did the idea forRoadiescome from?

Winnie Holzman: The show comes directly from Cameron Crowe’s life and his love of the road and crew people. It’s really a love letter about the people behind the scenes who make the concerts happen. The theme of it is a workplace show, but it’s really about a family and people who are living a life where they live with each other on the road and work behind the scenes to make the concerts happen.

It’s about the romance of that as well as the drama. It’s also a love letter to music. Cameron spent his whole life in the music world. It has an Almost Famous quality, except the big difference is that it takes place in the present, where Almost Famous was harkening back to the past of [Cameron’s] roots and about a mythical band. Here the stars are the roadies, not the band.

MCN:What did Showtime bring to the table that other networks may not have in terms of giving you the ability to tell the story?

WH: I think they immediately understood what we wanted to do, and they continue to be really supportive. We tried to make a show that’s a little off the beaten track ... it isn’t already on the air. People may love it or hate it or be indifferent, but they’re not going to say they saw something just like it. Showtime embraced that and allowed us to celebrate its differences, which is a great and rare quality in a network. As you’ve seen with other shows, they’re willing to take risks and they’ve been really great to work with. They have a lot of insight, and I think they generally enjoy the show. We’ve had to figure out the show because it doesn’t have a template that’s already on the air.

MCN:Shows with music themes have played well with audiences over the past few years. Do you see the music aspect as the catalyst to bring viewers in and then keep them hooked with narrative surrounding the characters in the show?

WH: I hope so. I think people have shown in recent years that they really love music-themed shows. What we’re doing is incorporating music in a very organic way. When we have music guests, they come right out of the storyline and they play themselves. I think people will see that we have an eclectic group of artists on our show — some are young, some are very well-established. It’s a little bit of everything. There’s a lot of great shows to watch, but I think our show is different and kind of unique and I’m proud of that.

MCN:What was your experience like working with Cameron Crowe?

WH: Cameron is such a wonderful person and he’s somebody I’ve admired from afar for years. I think he’s had such a unique career. He’s such a wonderful filmmaker and he’s a lot of fun … it’s been an incredible experience.

MCN:If you had to point to a key theme that helps setRoadiesapart from other scripted dramas on the air today, what would it be?

WH: I think it’s a very romantic show, and I think for people that love romantic shows they’ll find it refreshing. We’re not afraid to be romantic and heartfelt, and in many ways it is a show all about romance — first being involved in the love of music and then having that spill into the romances of the people around the music. We have some love affairs that are told in decidedly offbeat ways.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.