From The Desk Of Amy Rigby: “The Temptations” Miniseries

Amy Rigby is back with The Old Guys (Southern Domestic), her first solo album since 2005’s Little Fugitive. A veteran of NYC bands Last Roundup in the ’80s and the Shams in the ’90s, Rigby recorded the 12-track The Old Guys with husband and musical partner Wreckless Eric in upstate New York, where the couple resides. Not only is Rigby currently on tour in support of her new LP, she’s also guest editing all week.

Rigby: Everybody loves the Ramones (even if they’ve never heard the Ramones), and everybody’s seen Rock ‘N’ Roll High School, directed by Allan Arkush, but I think everybody should check out The Temptations miniseries from 1998, also directed by Arkush. The recent death of lead singer Dennis Edwards (post-David Ruffin, he powered psychedelic hits like “Cloud Nine” and “Ball Of Confusion”) reminded me how much I loved this group when I was growing up. Yes, they were the acceptable face of soul to suburban America, but they were dazzling to hear and behold no matter who you were or where you came from.

Arkush was schooled at the elbow of Roger Corman and brings that visceral element to anything he directs—even a recent episode of dying-swan TV series Nashville. You can feel his love for the artists and music in the performance segments. Produced by longtime Motown executive Suzanne de Passe with Pittsburgh standing in for Detroit (sorry Motown!), it’s full of great actors working to original live-performance recordings punctuated by classic biopic soap-opera elements (broken relationships, addiction, poverty, newfound wealth, shady business dealings, betrayal). It feels like the last of a breed of music-biography film that didn’t try so hard to be of quality. Ray is an early example of that self-conscious, hyper-conscientious strain—so well done that watching it more than once feels like too much work. The Temptations doesn’t try to tell you what to feel or why the group was important—it lets the music performances do that.