“Boss” (Starz). A second look 12/3/11

I rarely look back at previous reviews.  The new Starz show “Boss” starring Kelsey Grammar has rated a second look and some more detail.

I am now, as of episode 7 (of 8) last night, on record as opining that Boss is the best show I have ever seen on television, reluctantly forcing my previous favorite “Deadwood” into a back seat. This show has just blown me away. I have never seen anything approaching it. If you have any appreciation of the fine art of human drama, you MUST see this show.

That said, I will also go on record as urging you NOT to see the series finale unless you have followed the entire series, in which case you know where you’ll be at 10 pm next Friday night.  The final episode will be the cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers and you simply will not be able to comprehend it unless you’ve followed the entire series.

Accordingly, I will pull the entire season off the torrents next week and put all eight episodes on Drop box with a masked access route. You can also probably pull the entire series off Xfinity, Hulu or Netflix in time. It has been enthusiastically renewed for another 10 episodes in 2012. I think Grammar has a lock on the Emmy for Best Dramatic Actor.

Some history:  Looking back at the history of cable channels and the series that made them players. For HBO, it was The Sopranos; for Showtime, Dexter; for FX, The Shield; for AMC, Mad Men.  These were game-changers. And now Starz has its defining series in “Boss”, a monumental effort that puts Starz on the map.

“Boss” was developed by a relatively unknown writer, Farhad Safinia in late 2010, with creative input from Kelsey Grammer.  Safinia was born in Tehran, Iran, in 1975. He left Iran with his family at the age of four to live in Paris, then London. He attended King’s College, Cambridge, where he studied Economics; he directed and acted in a number of stage productions for the Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club and other theatre companies. After graduating, he moved to New York City where he studied film at New York University‘s Tisch School of the Arts. Safinia co-wrote Apocalypto (2006) with Mel Gibson.

“Boss” is a spectacle surrounding Chicago Mayor Tom Kane, a man who understands that his constituents need to be led, but Chicago is a city with many social, economic and ethnic special interests that can’t be controlled with an iron fist. It requires a time-honored mixture of compromise and balance to maintain a functional equilibrium, frequently of a barbarous nature. And a lot of players with their own self interest, including those closest to Kane.

Each episode of “Boss” opens (appropriately) with Robert Plant’s eerie “Satan,Your Kingdom Must Come Down”.  Kelsey Grammer is persuasive as a cunning old-school political bully.  The mayor’s henchmen normally enforce his decrees with methods that would make even stone cold Russian Apparatchiks giggle. But the mayor has a devastating secret: a degenerative neurological disease that he hides with the same ruthless guile he uses to cover up all the barbarous manipulations that get things done.  Suddenly a man with absolutely power is put in a position where he intermittently cannot tell the difference between real and Memorex.

The result is an absolutely uncompromising, brutal view of an amorphous world held in and out of check by a ruthless leader absolutely without scruples, even dealing with his own family. No one is exempt from his blessings, and no one is safe from his wrath as his personal aide finds out when Kane quietly cuts a chunk out of her soul with a couple of lines so chilling that I hid behind a couch pillow (see blurb below).

It’s a riveting drama, textured, and relentless. Kelsey Grammer brings to life an unflinching character lingers in your headspace for days. It’s a beast of a show, the best new drama of the fall season.

It gets an enthusiastic five of five Starz (with a bullet)


Reply to Mike Darwin (12/4/2011)

Darwin winges that I’m being hyperbolic when I way “Boss” is the best I’ve ever seen, that there are many genres of film and each can have a top of the line, that it is impossible to choose just one.

To that I say “Pooh-Bah”.

Kane is the most incredibly multi-dimensional character I have ever seen in film. Bar none. And Kelsey Grammer LIVES that character.  He knows his exact course and he knows how to implement it. Unpredictable but only to those around him.

“Caution: there be spoilers ahead**

In dressing down the candidate for Governor, he spews he (Kane) is a bad man and has done bad things, but he always knew what he was doing.  The object of his venom is an equally bad man but can’t do it well.  Kane always does it extremely well. In dressing down Kitty, he rails that amateurs have no idea what they’re getting into when they deal with him and every episode yields more texture to the man.

But in all his callous manipulation, he calls his daughter and breaks down in genuine tears knowing what it about to happen. It honestly breaks his heart and he weeps openly but it must be done for his higher order of reasoning the viewer may or may not agree with. Like him or not, he has an emotional range that has not shown any evidence of boundaries. He doesn’t require the affection of viewers to hold their rapt attention. He is impossible to categorize or pigeonhole.

This series is genius. I stand behind my review.

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