You don’t have to go back into the pantheon of TV dramas to find some great storylines involving politicians. In fact, they’ve long been the villains and saviors in a variety of programs stretching back probably to TV’s golden years. What you would have to look long and hard to find, though, would be such an accomplished performance that Kelsey Grammer delivers in the titular role of the BOSS to premium cable channel Starz’s riveting show.
Tom Kane (played by Grammer) is the mayor of Chicago . You’ve heard of the Windy City , no doubt? It’s the place long-rumored to have voting rolls involving household pets and the dead. Into this world of down-and-dirty shenanigans, Mayor Kane discovers his darkest secret: he’s gravelly ill. His mind is slowly being ravaged by neuromuscular disease that’s affecting his physical and mental faculties to the point where he’s seeing things, and these ‘things’ tend to more often than not take the shape of people he believes he’s speaking with. Those closest to him slowly begin to take notice in the change to his behavior, but what can they do to maintain the status quo when the pursuit of power is all that matters most?
It’s a captivating premise delivered with great promise. Kane’s doctors can’t effectively predict how rapidly the disease will progress or render him incapable of doing his job, so there’s this constant undercurrent of unpredictability tied to his behavior. Is he doing what he’s doing all to maintain his status, or is he functioning in order to belay the demands of a hallucination? The scripts run the gamut between smaller moments of character-to-character up to the grander moments of a mayor battling his councilmen for control of the city. While the lesser moments are nice, they’re certainly not as convincing or involving as those detailing big city politics.
Indeed, the central reason to enjoy BOSS is no less a stalwart performance by Kelsey Grammer. His portrayal of Kane as the vile, despicably flawed politico calling all of the shots is absorbing on all levels. When you can’t see the wheels moving in Kane’s magnetic stares and glares, you can no doubt hear ‘em grinding when he cries, crucifies and cajoles those around him to heed his bidding … or else. Even in the quiet moments – and I’m thinking specifically of the big finale that builds over the course of these several hours – he’s chewing scenery like only the best Thespians of his generation can accomplish. The fact that he’s surrounded by many who complement what he brings to the role is terrific, but no one holds a candle to Grammer’s magnetism here.
In all honesty, there are a few weaknesses here, and I’m reserving hope that they’ll be chocked up to first seasons jitters of a writing staff trying to flesh out the possibilities of several of the supporting characters. For example, Connie Nielsen plays Kane’s wife, Meredith; and it’s hard to imagine her character being of much use to the program besides the usual ‘prostituting herself out’ to her husband’s pet political causes. Nielsen does the best she can with what she’s given here – that’s saying plenty for her skills; I can only hope she serves a more compelling purposes in the upcoming season. Also, Hannah Ware is largely wasted as Kane’s redemption seeking daughter, Emma. In fact, she’s so wrapped up in the idea of seeking redemption they’ve gone and made her the equivalent of a female priest, though she fails to act like it in almost every way possible. Her plotlines involve drugs and sex – in which she’s a willing participant in both – almost as if the writers are trying to thumb their noses at the religious establishment. Perhaps that wouldn’t be so hard to swallow IF there were a single character that behaved appropriately in the complex drama, but, alas, that isn’t the world created here.
Also, actress Kathleen Robertson (who’s absolutely stunning to look at) is utterly wasted in a season-long storyline involving politicians and infidelity. If there’s any measure of predictability to the bulk of the show, there it lies. Hopefully, the writers will give her something of substance to do besides “taking one for the team” (which she appears to do quite well) as she delivers an undercurrent of poise and snarkyness for a program that could use a powerful female presence in the world of consummate alpha males.
BOSS: SEASON ONE is produced by Category 5 Entertainment, Grammnet Productions, Lionsgate Television, and Boss Kane Productions. DVD distribution is being handled through Lions Gate. The picture looks terrific, and it sounds even better. There are some modest issues I encountered with the sound; however, most of them had to do with Kane’s debilitating episodes and NOT spoken word issues. Sadly, the set is kinda/sorta slim with special features; there are a few audio commentaries (not all that much is all that revelatory, either), and a brief interview cut with scenes from the show that really serves more as a promotional piece than it does anything else. Sad. I would’ve liked to see much more exploration of this modern day Greek tragedy set against the backdrop of one of America ’s most corrupt institutions. Maybe a second season set will deliver more.
STRONGLY RECOMMENDED. It’s a great program with great promise. Grammer is Atlas here, and he’s hoisted the weight of an entire production on his shoulders. Only time will tell if the writers can deliver storylines that captivate all of the characters into achieving more than stock moments. Granted, that may be tough given that Grammer is the focal point, but here’s hoping that they’re all given a bit more to do in the upcoming season.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the good folks at Lions Gate provided me with a DVD screener of BOSS: SEASON ONE by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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