'Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story' Gives Music Docs a Good Name

Directed by Gotham Chopra

Starring Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, David Bryan, Tico Torres, Bruce Springsteen

Photo courtesy of Disney+

BY Sarah BeaPublished Apr 24, 2024


There aren't many artists today with enough history — and heart — to support a four-part documentary miniseries. So many music docs come out each year that don't have a compelling story to tell, either because there isn't an arc, the rise and fall is already well known, or the artist's journey simply isn't that interesting. Thank You Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story is a powerful reminder that there are still generation-defining bands just waiting to tell their story.

The new Disney+ original (Hulu, for any Yanks reading this) is the first docuseries about the New Jersey band made with the full cooperation from all living members from past and present, including guitarist Richie Sambora. As any JoviNation member can attest, Sambora's participation is a pleasant surprise: the guitarist exited the band 11 years ago for personal reasons, literally hours before he was supposed to go on stage. It was all very dramatic, and his relationship with Jon continues to be the source of juicy hot goss.

Thank You, Goodnight covers Bon Jovi's 40-year history. Newcomers and old fans alike will come away from the series with a newfound appreciation for the band known mega-hits like "Livin' on a Prayer" and "You Give Love a Bad Name." Over four episodes that range in length from an hour to 90 minutes length, the miniseries uses interviews, archival footage, graphics and voiceovers to piece together an easy-to-follow narrative. It's entertaining, thorough and earnest.

Thank You, Goodnight is the ideal music documentary: Jon's unlikely rise as a hardworking nobody on the New Jersey music scene to an internationally recognized superstar is inspiring, but also an admittedly conventional rags-to-riches story. Director Gotham Chopra elevates the material by juxtaposing the singer's past journey with his contemporary struggle to overcome a chronic vocal cord injury. This non-linear approach adds an interesting flavour to the overall story. It's not really about the band's past or present, but exploring the overall ethos: who they were, are and will be.

The docuseries is refreshingly honest about Jon and his bandmates, including their bad behaviour and personal struggles. Without over-dramatizing or dwelling on the sordid "rock star" details, the series allows people like Jon, Richie, drummer Tico Torres, and even former manager Doc McGhee to be vulnerable and open. Jon was a workhorse, but that relentless drive caused the band to burn out. He and Richie were magical together, but they're very different people, and that caused their lives to go in different directions. Various members (Sambora included) developed substance abuse addictions that followed them well into the 2000s, and they have an opportunity here to talk about that openly. No one figure is unfairly villainized, and it appears an effort was made to balance the perspectives.

Jon comes across remarkably humble and raw in the series. It's difficult to watch how much his vocal chord problems weigh on him in the 2020s footage; this is someone who is known for being such a warm source of optimism and love, and we're getting a glimpse of his inner demons and darkness. He's no megalomaniac, but he is aware of his legacy and is terrified of letting the band down. Without his voice, he seems to have lost a sense of self. This journey of self-discovery post-COVID is equally as moving as the band's rise to fame, and Chopra does an extraordinary job capturing these moments on film.

While Thank You, Goodnight is well directed and well edited, each episode is too long. Even with how interesting the content is, these are still episodes that are roughly the same length of 1931's Frankenstein. The docuseries would have been more digestible if the content was broken up into smaller, and more clearly defined "chapters." This is already loosely the case, but too much ground is covered in each episode, and the career progression gets murky as a result. Perhaps the algorithm decided four is the magic number for these things — but, personally, I would have preferred six tight episodes around 45 minutes each than 70- and 90-minute beasts.

Bon Jovi are not a very cool band. I've been a fan for ages, in part because my aunt was really, really into it, and got me hooked on "Bad Medicine" before I was old enough to understand the innuendo. But as a hipster snob in the 2000s, I wasn't going around proclaiming to my metalhead buddies that Sambora could really shred (although he can). More than anything, Thank You, Goodnight is a reminder of how much Bon Jovi has been able to stay relevant for so long by not trying to be "cool" or follow trends. It's a distinctly American group that has entertained millions of people around the world for decades, and that's an achievement worth celebrating.


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