For the movement dedicated to shocking the masses and inserting a safety pin into social claims, the villain also had a moral streak. It billed itself as a pure corrective to bloated baroque rock and far-flung luxury rock stars. In “The Revolver,” John Lydon (Anson Boone), aka Johnny Rotten, claims that his group is “the most honest band ever.”
Fact-checking: It’s complicated. The revolvers were certainly outspoken—to the audience, to their fans, to each other. But they were also, as “Pistol” says, an invention, a carefully assembled ploy from impresario Malcolm McLaren (Thomas Brodie-Sangster, “The Queen’s Gambit”), a vicious rock and ramblestiltskin that exacted a heavy price for spinning it into gold.
Did the band need to explicitly blast the chord of power, or, to name a few, the title of Julian Temple’s play mocking it, The Great Rock and Roll Monument? In pop culture, both things can be true. Two completely different new shows – “Pistol” about the British Rebellion and “Angelen” about California-style self-invention – suggest that artificial creativity can be more real than reality.
“The Revolver”, as a series, is something of a contradiction. Directed by Boyle and written by Craig Pearce, it celebrates the sinister spirit of originality and exudes love for the chaos of Storm of Pistols. But this story about yobs spitting gobs turns into a crowded production that is as overly cheerful and persistent as the prog-rock keyboard solo.
The six-part “pistol” is based on the memoir “Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol” by band guitarist Steve Jones. (The series — deep breath — is an FX production that won’t air on FX but will drop all six episodes on Hulu on Tuesday, because that’s TV in 2022.) That makes Jones (Toby Wallace) the point — showing the character whether it’s a good fit for the job. or not.
A childishly-faced, devious hormonal group escaping from an abusive home, Jones is relieved by meeting McLaren, the onetime music director who runs the offending SEX boutique with designer Vivienne Westwood (Talulah Riley). McLaren recasts Jones from singer to guitarist in his band, Swankers, renamed the Sex Pistols, and finds his lead attacker in clever Lydon.
Jones does not know how to play the guitar. Lydon is unsure of his ability to sing. But it doesn’t matter to McLaren, it’s a Robespierre capitalist given to statements like “I don’t want musicians, I want vandals!”
McLaren’s true talent is casting, and the “pistol” beats this part of the test as well. Boon captures Lydon’s spiky scrape (and his hair) and gives it an interesting thought. The ceremony scenes, which reproduce much of the brief catalog of handguns, explode with delirious violence.
But while “Pistol” sounds like the part at length, it struggles with the lyrics. It aims to place the band within the larger context of the economically and culturally stagnant Britain of the 1970s, but at its core it is a standard tragedy behind the music. It becomes so once the squad recruits companion Lydon Sid Vicious (Louis Partridge), who is more adept at dealing with a broken bottle than Bass, who leads “Pistol” to revisit the material for “Sid and Nancy” movie.
Boyle’s overlapping trend indicates higher ambition, but it gets in the way. The series highlights the most important moments; When Sid’s “evil” hamster bites him, and gives him his nickname, you expect him to ring a bell. “Pistol” is especially fond of interpretive documentary clips. When Lydon leaves the band and Sid Vicious, who takes his place in vocals, agrees to record “My Way,” we get a clip of Frank Sinatra, lest you miss the signal.
The most interesting material on “Pistol” is just outside the band’s orbit, especially their interest in how punk fashion intersects with music – and even before it. (Besides Westwood, a punk fashion icon Jordan – Maisie Williams, who walks away from Winterfell with a shock of dyed hair – presides over the series as a messenger from the future.) But that theme overtakes him in the rock star story, just as it was in life.
Pistol realizes the advantage rock men have in claiming the revolutionary credit denied to rebel women. Westwood tells McLaren that he does little more than pick her thoughts on creative destruction, but adds, “I’m used to it.”
But the series tends to reduce the women themselves. The film “Pistol” shows that Jones’s girlfriend and sometimes lover Chrissy Hynd (Sydney Chandler), who will eventually perform in front of the protesters, is the most talented and disciplined musician. But just as she was frustrated when breaking into the boys’ club, her character in “Pistol” often falls into a comedic role as best friend.
The series taps time and time again on intriguing peripheral characters, as in the Episode 3 portrayal of “Paulin” (Bianca Stevens), the mentally ill woman who inspired Lydon’s lyricism for “Bodies.” As much as the sex pistols have become a repository of McLaren whims and notions, the “pistol” has become a vehicle for tossing in more interesting stories, which sometimes fall out of the back of a truck as it goes down a familiar path.
At first glance, Peacock’s “Angelyne” and “Pistol” have little in common. It explores the mystery and celebrity will of its main character (Emmy Rossum, “Shameless”), who made herself an icon by putting up a hood on billboards in Los Angeles in the 1980s.
But this sex goddess, like the Sex Pistols, is also the work of a pop culture craftsman, whose self-created creations have their roots in the Los Angeles punk scene. It’s her Malcolm McLaren, and she sits as comfortably in legend-making as in the driver’s seat of her pink Corvette. First as a singer in the sad boyfriend band, and then as a professional celebrity, she lives by the creed: “I don’t want to be famous for what I do. I want to be famous for what I am.”
But being yourself takes a lot of work. Rossum, who has sponsored the project for years, gets an amazing acting show (complete with a prosthetic shift type of body armor) Accuracy in current documentaries). The show’s creator and presenter, Nancy Oliver and Allison Miller, gave the series a savvy feminist foundation under a hard candy wrapper.
Angeline’s performance is, after all, a critique of objectivity. She has made herself an exaggeration of what pop culture wants from women, as manifested in decades of female superstars and sex cats. Angeline understands that her allure comes not just from her ergonomically designed curves but from hiding her secrets in a culture that sees shells like hers ripe for loot.
Its origins finally appeared in 2017 Hollywood Reporter Gallery, whose series conveys its raw materials through scandalous fake interviews with characters, many of whom have renamed light fictional versions of real people. We hear from Jeff Glaser (Alex Karpovsky), the reporter who spies Angeline’s story; Harold Wallach (Martin Freeman), a businessman she charms to support her advertising campaign; her assistant and fan club president (Hamish Linklater); And Angeline herself, on a love chair in the form of pink lips, interferes with the discussion of other people’s accounts of events.
Through the docu- ‘Rashomon’, ‘Angelyne’, like Angelyne herself, works to control the viewer’s perception of her. You might conclude, for example, that Anglin was an influencer before Instagram, Kardashian before reality TV, and a clever interpreter of the ways women come to power. But you don’t need to – Angelyne does it for you over and over again.
The series is the most powerful, and even transcendent, when the talking chiefs give a breather and take a flight of fancy. The final episode, which delves into Angeline’s biography, is almost stage-like in the way the characters detach themselves and comment on their situations. It dramatizes the poignant story set in The Hollywood Reporter’s investigation, then shifts the focus to Angeline’s fantasy of herself as a space-faring alien, freeing Earthlings from earthly boredom.
Maybe an Anglin Idol was made of plastic. But what’s so great about originality? What is so important in clarifying the facts about a celebrity’s origins, compared to the combination of glamor you gave a city to motorists stuck at traffic lights? Amidst a TV scene filled with “true story” sitcoms, Angeline might be suggesting that a story can be true even if it isn’t.
Back on Earth, live the real Angeline criticize the series (The same reaction you’d expect from Rossum’s version of it.) But for this viewer, at least, it’s an honest appreciation of piracy’s reproduction. It’s become her own business in Pop Art — even if, to paraphrase “EMI” for sex pistols, Angeline argues, Just did it ‘cos fame.