BOSS: SEASON 1
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
There’s a trend in television today that grim, depressing and dour is instantly lauded by critics as being real and quality television. I get why that happens because a show that does this embraces the darker side of the world and drags the negative emotions out of its audience.
We have seen this happen quite recently with praised shows like “The Walking Dead” and “The Killing,” and now we see it happening with the Starz series “Boss.” Some dismiss this trend as “misery porn,” which shows little hope for the human race. That may very well be the case, and I understand that. I’ve watched my mother-in-law get glued to the TV after a event of human tragedy, weeping softly to herself. There’s something in the human psyche that longs for this depressing display of emotion.
I’m just not into this.
However, with that said, “Boss” is still an exceptionally well-crafted show. But it’s grim. And it’s dour. And it’s about as depressing to watch as a show can get. If only the characters smiled now and then.
The story follows Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer), the corrupt mayor of Chicago as he manipulates the politics of his city and party. He has been secretly diagnosed with a debilitating and incurable disease. He’s going to great length to hide this from everyone on the planet, but in a business of cutthroat dealings and betrayal, it’s hard for him to keep his head above water.
From a purely technical perspective, “Boss” is a brilliant-looking series, and the high definition picture on the Blu-ray really sells this. Even though the series is as dark as they come, the cinematography is often brightly lit if not still drab with a steely gray color palate.
It’s also superbly acted. Grammer, who has proved himself to be a formidable presence on television with several hit shows under his belt, plays the antihero exceptionally well. He nails the two-faced nature of a politician, coming off as an absolute ass but still having the charisma to be likeable when he turns on his public face.
The supporting cast is also quite good with the still-lovely Connie Nielsen as his (privately) estranged wife and Kathleen Robertson as his sizzling-hot (and often partially nude) personal aide. Other great supporting roles are delivered by Jeff Hephner as an up-and-coming politician who is both chosen by Kane to be the new governor of Illinois and seen as a potential rival, as well as Martin Donovan as his senior political advisor.
Aside from having nary a shred of humor or even a microsecond of levity or good feelings, “Boss” falters at times with painfully cliched storylines and plot twists. Of course, I suppose this is forgivable considering arrogant politicians fall into the same traps themselves every year. Still, I expect a little more smart thinking from supposedly smart characters.
The other problem with “Boss” is some of the characters are frankly boring. Kane’s daughter (Hannah Ware) has a full story arc that eventually intersects with her father’s campaign, but she is so woefully uninteresting on screen that it’s a chore to watch.
Still, “Boss” is a solid series that shows the seedy underbelly of American politics. It was recommended to me by a friend after I declared “The Ides of March” to be one of the best movies of 2011, and yes, it hits a lot of the same points of dirty politics. However, it needs a little pick-me-up to really keep me interested and not wanting to slit my wrists.
The season one Blu-ray comes with all eight episodes with audio commentaries on select episodes with executive producers Farhad Safinia and Richard Levin, along with director of photography Kasper Tuxen. The only other special feature is the 20-minute examination of the series “The Mayor and His Maker,” featuring an interview with Grammer and series creator Farhad Safinia. Sure, this isn’t loaded with bonus material, but that’s not the sell of this Blu-ray. If the series is worth watching, it’s definitely worth watching in high definition.