Mayor Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer) sits like a spider at the center of Chicago’s web of power; a web built on a covenant with the people. They want to be led, they want disputes settled, jobs dispensed, and loyalties rewarded. If he achieves through deception and troubling morality, so be it. As long as he gets the job done, they look the other way.
Yet despite being the most effective mayor in recent history, a degenerative brain disorder is ripping everything away from him. He can’t trust his memory, his closest allies, or even himself.
Kane’s wife Meredith (Connie Nielsen) knows nothing. Theirs is a marriage of convenience. Kitty O’Neil (Kathleen Robertson), Kane’s advisor, has her suspicions but stays silent. And Kane’s political advisor Ezra Stone (Martin Donovan), a Yale graduate with a rough edge, remains questionless.
Only Emma (Hannah Ware), Kane’s estranged daughter, has a chance of learning his secret. This is going to be the toughest term yet for the Boss. - Starz
95 out of 100
OK, so it’s confession time here at the ‘Tastic. You see, we’ve been doing a lot of experimenting lately based on stuff we’ve seen in television and film. You know how they say on Mythbusters, “don’t try this at home,” well, we’ve been trying this at home. Our most recent experiment is that we have been trying to create a matter treleportation device like in the two films, The Fly. Wouldn’t you know it, but like Vincent Price and Jeff Goldblum before us, we too let something get into the device that we shouldn’t have. In our case, somehow we left DVD sets of HBO’s The Sopranos, The Wire and Boardwalk Empire in the thing and what came out was this show with Kelsey Grammar about the Chicago political machine called, Boss.
And that’s what Boss is. It’s a hybrid of only the best parts of those great HBO series that have preceded it (and Showtime’s Brotherhood… wouldn’t want to leave them out) and we have to imagine that HBO is kicking themselves in their collective asses over not having this on their schedule.
We hate to say this, but this show defies all logic because it goes against all of the principles of good drama. We’ve often said that in order for a show to succeed it has to have characters who are likable and relatable. The cast of characters on Boss (including the protagonist, Mayor Tom Kane (Grammer)) is the most unlikable, unrelatable and despicable group you will ever encounter on television. We absolutely hate these characters and want to see them all suffer yet we are uncontrollably compelled to keep tuning in. What’s worse is that we keep trying to find some glimmer of humanity in these people and just when they seem a little vulnerable and – well, human – it’s gone as quickly as it came. They are downright disgusting without ANY redeeming value and when they try moralize it just makes that impression worse.
In fact these characters are so awful that even though we recognized early on how well the show was written and how good the drama was, we were planning on suggesting that people pass on this simply because you feel dirty after watching it. Then we got to the fourth episode and all bets were off and we recognized that this show is indeed the guiltiest of guilty pleasures and you can’t help but to fall in love with it.
Boss is absolutely epic and Shakespearean to the point that you realize if Shakespeare were alive today, he wouldn’t have written about Julius Caesar in Rome, he would have written about Tom Kane in Chicago. The whole cast is absolutely brilliant in this with Grammar leading the way to shake off the Frasier Crane role once and for all and be recognized for the brilliant dramatic actor that he is. And we have to say, this show is way more clever than we are because we were sure that the subplot regarding Kane’s estranged daughter was going to drag down the show but it turned out to be perhaps the most important aspect in understanding the nature of Tom Kane.
The only issues we have with the show are issues that most people would probably just overlook but we’ve been a around the block a few times and realize when we are being obnoxiously and cheaply hit over the head with a plot device.
The first issue is that Shakespearean dialogue that is laced ad nauseum with allegorical metaphors that often involve long, drawn-out historically relevant monologues that are designed to imply a connection to the current situation on the show and make the audience go, “Hmmmm… now I get it.” What bugs us about this is that it’s a device that’s been used time and time again on dramatic television and Boss seems to overuse it as if they think the audience isn’t smart enough to get what’s going on without a PowerPoint presentation. It’s a little insulting to us and we hope that they won’t beat that horse to death in season two like they did in season one. We don’t mind its use but its overuse comes off as cheap and obvious, like the writers are overcompensating for an inability to write well and we know that’s certainly not an issue.
Speaking of being hit over the head, although we don’t mind beautiful naked women on television, Boss seems to be gratuitous about it, adopting the HBO mantra of “we do it because we can.” In the past we’ve pointed out with HBO that the excessive use of sex, violence and profanity on their original programming has become a gimmick due to the fact that a lot of the writing on their shows isn’t what it used to be. As noted, Boss doesn’t have this problem. The characters are excessive and gratuitous all by themselves without the need for random nudity and sex scenes every five minutes. Again, not that we mind T & A, it’s just that the excessive nature of it is a little unbecoming for the show and serves to cheapen it, slightly.
The only other issue that we have had is that the big, sudden twist at the end of the first season wasn’t really that much of twist. We saw it coming because in the era of dramatic series that thrive on plot twists, the last guy you would expect should always be the first guy that you suspect. Don’t get us wrong, there were enough other fantastic plot twists during the first season (especially during the last four episodes) to more than compensate for the “big one” so it really doesn’t bother us that much and it won’t bother you either and in fact, like we said, we just happen to be more attuned to these things, most people will still probably be surprised.
As much as we hate everyone on this show, Boss is by far one of the best shows on television. You will not regret watching it and we think it’s a reason in and of itself to subscribe to Starz if you don’t already have it.
A note to Netflix subscribers: Keep in mind that the Netflix/Starz content deal expires in January 2012 and will not be renewed. The current contract has Starz programming airing sixty days after the final episode of a series airs, i.e., Boss will not be available for streaming on Netflix so the only way that you will be able to see it legally is on OnDemand through your cable provider, when it’s released on home video or through iTunes.