Sally Jo and I soldiered on through George and Tammy. We finally finished it tonight.
Look, I could write another long-winded review of my thoughts about this mess of a TV series.
The long and the short of it is that this series failed to capture any joy, any fun, any LIFE of its subjects, George Jones and Tammy Wynette. It’s what rock critics used to refer to as “soulless.” Going through the motions, but failing to capture any real feeling or soul of the subjects. Watching it felt tedious, like walking through deep mud. There just wasn’t any life to it.
The unifying thing about real country music and country musicians that I have known, often ignored by Northerners, city folk, and the intellectual elite, is that fun, joy, humor, life, and soul are at the foundation of these people and why they do what they do. Even through tragedy, alcoholism, drug addiction, illness, and death, hillbillies will joke and laugh about their condition. It’s the yin and the yang—tragedy and comedy—you can’t have one without the other. Whoever produced this mess has a truly joyless center, a misunderstanding of the basic rules of country music filtered through “everything must be serious, all the time” post–Bob Dylan lens; and some weird belief that lurid soap-opera high drama is enough to carry a truly terrible script through eight long episodes.
And that’s not even addressing Michael Shannon’s rendition of “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
I remember a wedding that the Dave and Deke Combo played some thirty years ago. A relative of the family had won a karaoke championship in Simi Valley, and it was expected of us to let him up to sing with our band. The poor fellow’s name shall be withheld, though merely remembering his name makes me chortle. He was a dimwitted fellow who liked to wear a floor-length duster coat and drink lots of beer. One of his claims to fame was that he’d had sex with a midget in the women’s bathroom of a bar where we used to play.
This karaoke champion of Simi Valley got on stage with our band at this wedding and instructed us to play a song that had recently become a huge hit, Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Achy Breaky Heart.” For one thing, we didn’t know the song. I had heard it, but not enough to know how to play it. For another thing, our new singer had only sung karaoke, so he didn’t know to tell us what key to play in. We stammered in shock and disbelief, telling him we couldn’t do it. He counted in “1-2-3-4,” without hesitation, and the resulting cacophony was the worst, out-of-tune, poorly played rendition of (in my opinion) one of the worst songs ever written (I think “Achy Breaky Heart” should be locked in a concrete box and shot into space so that no one will ever be tortured by it again). I mean, this fellow’s guest spot with the Dave and Deke Combo singing “Achy Breaky Heart” was just goddamn awful. It was bad enough that there wasn’t a single clap of applause when we were done, and after the show no one would look any of us in the eye. It was, in my memory, the worst musical performance of my entire career.
But it was still about a thousand times better, and definitely WAY more “country,” than Michael Shannon attempting to sing George Jones’s magnum opus, “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
What an abomination. Minus 1000 stars out of 10.
I will give this last episode one tiny bit of credit: whoever had the brainstorm to play the 1980 punk rock classic “Tammy Wynette” by the Maggots (featuring an old friend of mine, Jane Weems, on drums) during a scene where Tammy was wandering around lost, well, that person was a genius. A brilliant stroke. Also, they let Logan Ledger (who played one of the Jones Boys) sing one brief line of a song at the very end, and Logan is stone-cold great. Check out Logan Ledger if you want to hear some good music after suffering through George and Tammy. Good god, let one good thing come of it.