'Geddy Lee Asks: Are Bass Players Human Too?' Has No Rhythm and Contributes Nothing

Starring Geddy Lee, Krist Novoselic, Les Claypool, Melissa Auf der Maur, Robert Trujillo

Photo courtesy of Paramount+

BY Sarah BeaPublished Dec 5, 2023

Geddy Lee, a Canadian icon for the past 50 years, is admired for his immense musical talent, gentle quirky energy and unabashed nerdiness.

What Lee is not known for is being outgoing, charismatic or assertive, and this poses a real foundational problem for his latest project, the docuseries Geddy Lee Asks: Are Bass Players Human Too?

Inspired by his experience interviewing bassists for his book, Geddy Lee's Big Beautiful Book of Bass, this new four-part documentary series sees the Rush frontman spending time with other famous bassists, getting to know the person behind the instrument. The initial batch of episodes features interviews with Les Claypool (Primus), Rob Trujillo (Metallica), Melissa Auf der Maur (Hole, Smashing Pumpkins) and Krist Novoselic (Nirvana). 

As far as concepts go, Are Bass Players Human Too? is not terrible. As a general rule, bass players can be a quirky bunch (I say this as a second-generation bassist). It takes a certain kind of disposition to want that role in a band: off to the side, unnoticed by many and yet responsible for keeping the groove on track. As Lee puts it, the bassist is the "glue" that holds the sound together.

The series highlight is Lee's time with Novoselic, who's an affable oddball — but, ultimately, Are Bass Players Human Too? is poorly executed. The documentary has a reality show feel, thanks to the editing and over-reliance on underscores. Each episode features forced "activities" that Lee and his guest awkwardly "enjoy" together, like visiting a historical building or watching local kids skateboard. It's all very cringe, and more than a little dull.

There is no story, no drama and no insight. Lee tries to keep things rolling, but he lacks the skills required to host a TV series. He sometimes talks over his guests, and often fades into the background of scenes. Being a sweet old man is not enough to carry 80 minutes on screen.

Frankly, it's baffling that the series was made in this state. The four bassists chosen are all from the same niche (that is, Gen X and Nirvana-adjacent). This might have worked mixed together for a grunge-themed pilot, but having the whole season be '90s rock stars is a weirdly narrow scope. Why not get a legend like Carol Kaye, or a (relative) newcomer like Esperanza Spalding? Verdine White would have been great, too. It also doesn't help that the musicians featured are all wealthy, and the episodes revolve around them showing off their privileged lives. (The whole point of the show is to "humanize" these people, yet it's done in the least relatable way possible.)

Credit where credit's due: Lee seems very nice. Also, he makes a "slappin' da bass" joke, which is almost a meta reference to I Love You, Man. There are glimmers of what this series could have been — but what it is is not very good.
(Paramount Pictures)

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