On March 2, 2023, Amazon released the first three episodes of their new mini-series Daisy Jones & the Six. The 10-episode series is based on Taylor Jenkins Reid’s 2019 best-selling novel of the same name. In her book, Reid utilizes a unique oral history writing style mimicking a documentary to tell the tumultuous journey of Daisy Jones & the Six, a fictional 1970s rock band. Although the show is good independently, it flops when compared to the page-turner it’s based on. The following subtle plot change led to significant gaps in overarching themes and well-rounded, personable characters being flattened.
Disclaimer: The following article contains spoilers about both the book and the show adaptation of Daisy Jones & the Six
Chuck Goes to Dental School and Pete Doesn’t Exist
In the book, the band forms with five members: Billy Dunne, Graham Dunne, Warren Rhodes, Chuck Williams, and Pete Loving. The year is 1969, and the band is booking shows in and around Pittsburgh and building a name for themselves when Chuck Williams is called for the draft in December. Less than six months after leaving to serve in Vietnam, he dies in Cambodia. Eddie Loving, the younger brother of Pete Loving, steps in to play Chuck’s parts on rhythmic guitar. Alternatively, in the show, Chuck Williams and Pete Loving are one (Chuck Loving) who decides to leave for school to pursue a career in dentistry, and Eddie Roundtree is a band member from the start. The change is seemingly insignificant; in the long run, Chuck is no longer a member of the band and Eddie is. However, these minute plot points are essential to Reid’s world-building. Not only is Chuck’s deployment a reminder of the political and social environment surrounding the band, but its implications hold thematic weight.
First, Chuck being drafted and eventually passing was a jarring reality check for the young bandmates. Billy, in particular, battled with the idea of bad things happening to good people, and vice versa. In a quote on page 27, he explains, you “wonder why it wasn’t you, what makes you so special that you get to be safe.” This idea of deserving fortune sticks with the character throughout his rise to fame and struggles with addiction. As the band is gaining popularity and gearing up to head out on their first tour, we hear Billy articulate this concept again, saying on page 59, “you have to stop and ask yourself if you think you really deserve it,” “of course you don’t,” when guys you grew up with are “lost overseas like we lost Chuck, of course, you don’t deserve it.” This authentic push and pull between striving for success, celebrating when you achieve it, and never really feeling like you’re worthy is lost in the show all because Chuck Loving wanted to be a dentist.
Second, in the show, Eddie secures his spot in the band solely on his own merit and friendship with the Dunne brothers. In the book, Eddie joins the others as Chuck’s replacement – impossible shoes to fill, especially due to the devastating nature of Chuck’s departure from the band. Beyond this, Eddie is introduced to the other members as Pete’s younger brother. The context of Eddie’s initial involvement is not lost on him or Billy, contributing significantly to their strife and fight for creative power in later years. Through this, Reid is able to develop Eddie as his own character independent of his relationship with Billy or Camilla. Conversely, the show frames Eddie as disliking Billy predominantly because of a long-time crush on Billy’s wife, Camilla, and his character’s relevancy is focused primarily on how he relates to lead singer Billy Dunne.
Showrunner Scott Neustadter defended the removal of Pete Loving explaining that he “was always thinking about the Pete Best version of somebody who — when you’re really young and you’re at the crossroads of your life — you can either take a huge risk and join a rock band and hope that something happens for you, or you can not do that, because how frequently does that work out? Knowing that the band becomes huge, you can have fun watching somebody make the wrong choice.” He stated further that practicality was also involved as “it felt like eliminating Pete enabled [the team] to do more with the characters that [they] had in the ensemble, which was already a pretty big group of people.” In regard to the elimination of all discussion surrounding the draft and Vietnam, Neustadter said, “There’s some stuff on the cutting room floor that’s conversations about Vietnam and … that time and the draft. At the end of the day, there was enough heavy stuff in the early episodes.”
Unfortunately, this is exactly the kind of thinking that made the show feel thin. Reid’s work doesn’t fly off bookstore shelves because it is light and comfortable. Her novel is heavy, tumultuous, dramatic, and real. Her characters have flaws that make you hate them as much as you love them, the reader suffers loss and experiences high alongside every band member, and there’s a reason the last three words aren’t ‘happily ever after.’