Culture is on a bad nostalgia trip and there doesn’t seem to be an end to the hallucinations in sight. This week on “Beating a Dead Horse, But Make It Fashion” is Pistol, a clever little six-episode miniseries about the Sex Pistols and the rise of punk in the U.K. brought to you by FX, written by Craig Pearce (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby), directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire), and adapted from guitarist Steve Jones’ real-life memoir, Lonely Boy: Tales From a Sex Pistol. With that kind of pedigree, one can and should expect a certain amount of style and camp in the biopic. And in those ways, the boys deliver. In others, woof. Let’s get into it.
Much has been said about the arrival of “punk” as we know it via England in the mid- to late 1970s. Too much, in fact. (I’m not sure anything needs to be said about it ever again, and this is coming from someone who has a PhD in Punk Studies, on track to be a tenured professor. That means I know several people with an authentic Germs burn.) But FX/Hulu felt otherwise and so here we are with Pistol, the millionth attempt at educating the masses on the Sex Pistols.
It all starts off well enough: shots of Bowie circa Ziggy Stardust, that infamous flash in time that inspired a generation of disaffected British youths to put on makeup and maybe suck a cock or two. I’ve heard at least three different semi-famous Music Men known for being in bands that got big in the ’80s describe seeing David Bowie on TV for the first time as the moment in history, the shock wave that electrocuted punk into existence. So, like I said, it all starts off fine. Then the acting begins.