The Black Donnellys: The Complete Series – DVD Review

Available at


Paul Haggis
Robert Moresco


Jonathan Tucker ………. Tommy Donnelly
Tom Guiry ………. Jimmy Donnelly
Billy Lush ………. Kevin Donnelly
Michael Stahl-David ………. Sean Donnelly
Olivia Wilde ………. Jenny Reilly
Keith Nobbs ………. Joey Ice Cream
Kirk Acevedo ………. Nicky Cottero

The Show

Welcome to the 21st Century. In recent years, there has been an ongoing trend of releasing your favorite television shows on DVD. Every year, more and more older shows get released for the first time on DVD. It’s almost a no-brainer that current and new shows will automatically get released after each season airs on television. But what about the shows that get canceled before they were even given a chance? If you are lucky, they get a DVD release in all of their limited glory as well. For an example of a show that got cut before it even had a chance, look no further than The Black Donnellys.

The Black Donnellys followed four young Catholic Irish-American brothers in Hell’s Kitchen New York. There’s Jimmy, Tommy, Kevin and Sean. These brothers would do anything to protect each other, and for them that means lying, cheating, stealing and, occasionally, calling the cops. Narrated by wannabe gangster Joey “Ice Cream,” this gritty series follows the Donnelly brothers’ sudden involvement in organized crime, focusing on how they go from boys to mobsters, and showing how their new life affects their relationships with friends, family and lovers.

The creators of this show have a pedigree. Paul Haggis and Robert Moresco co-wrote back-to-back “Best Picture” Academy Award winning movies, Crash and Million Dollar Baby. That’s a first in Hollywood. This was their attempt to create a compelling television series. As it turned out, Donnellys was interesting and entertaining; it was a high quality show. The premise of the show wasn’t totally original, but the way it was shot made it look more original than it was. It definitely felt more like a movie than a television series.

All of the actors on this series were relatively unknown. Olivia Wilde had a recurring role during season two of The O.C. as Marissa’s new “friend”, Alex, and Jonathan Tucker had appeared in various movies like Sleepers and Hostage. Other than them, though, nothing more than the occasional guest spot on a TV show for the rest of the main cast. Still everyone does an amazing job in their roles and there are very few cliche characters. The exception would be Joey Ice Cream, who is your typical New York motormouth weasel character. Joey is also the narrator for much of the show’s run. This really distracts at times from the main story being portrayed on the screen, though.

Many shows fail to last beyond a shortened season these days for a variety of reasons. In the case of The Black Donnellys, you can’t blame the cast or creators, Paul Haggis or Robert Moresco. They attempted to create intriguing television series, and for the most part they succeeded. NBC just didn’t give this show time to develop an audience. For those who did enjoy this show while it was on TV, you’ll love having the complete series here including all the episodes that weren’t shown on NBC. Yet at the end of the day, you can’t help but wonder what might have become of this show if it was only given a chance to survive.


Disc One:

Episode 1 – Pilot
Four Irish-American brothers, Kevin, Jimmy, Tommy, and Sean, live by the motto “family first” but find their individual interests conflict when they’re implicated in the disappearance of a mob-connected bookie.

Episode 2 – A Stone of the Heart
It’s time for payback as Jimmy sits in a holding cell, and Tommy and Kevin decide to dispose of this problem with the bookie for good.

Episode 3 – God is a Comedian
A brother’s love can be harsh, especially when Tommy accurately predicts Jimmy’s fall from grace after being released from prison.

Episode 4 – The World Will Break Your Heart
Jimmy’s big mouth gets the brothers into even more trouble, and Tommy decides to host the wake for Huey in order to avoid suspicion in the neighborhood.

Disc Two:

Episode 5 – Lies
Honesty may not be the best policy when Tommy discovers that Huey’s widow has a box Dokey desperately wants, and Jenny wakes up in Samson’s bed.

Episode 6 – Fun Like Hell
A scheme to strong-arm funds grabs hold of all of the brother as Tommy gets pulled into Jimmy and Kevin’s gambling action, while trying to protect an old friend.

Episode 7 – The Only Sure Thing
Roles are reversed when Jimmy paints the bar and protects Sean from the family business and Tommy goes out with Kevin to collect payments.

Episode 8 – In Each One a Savior
No good deed goes unpunished for Tommy, the new head of the neighborhood, when he tries to help a woman evict drug dealers from her building.

Episode 9 – All of Us Are in the Gutter
Tommy hopes that his new job at an art studio will help him to separate from the business, so the picture isn’t pretty when the Donnellys’ new partner will only deal with him.

Disc Three:

Episode 10 – When the Door Opens
The brothers’ loyalty and their partnership with Dokey are put to the test when he asks them to clear an apartment building of its junkie tenants.

Episode 11 – Wasn’t That Enough
In spite of warnings from Dokey and Helen, Tommy agrees to help Reilly after he is told to vacate his building.

Episode 12 – The Black Drop
Tensions rise when Tommy goes after the person he believes is threatening Reilly’s diner. Jenny’s husband’s body is found, and Dokey humiliates Jimmy.

Episode 13 – Easy is the Way
The consequences are deadly when Tommy and Jimmy both have their own ideas about how to save the family.

The Video:

The video is given in widescreen color with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is enhanced for 16X9 TVs. Transfer is good with minimal distortion. The show has a gritty, raw New York City feel to it. This series seems more like a movie than a television show. Another positive attribute for this show.

The Audio:

The audio included is available in English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English SDH as well. The dialogue comes out crisp and clear, and seems authentic for the setting of this series.

The Extras:

Deleted Scene
There is only one deleted scene and that’s your only extra. A disappointment for sure, but you can’t really expect to see extras on a show that didn’t even make a shortened season on television. It would have been nice, though.


If you were a fan of this show, you have to buy this DVD set. There are really no extras to get the most out of your money, but it’s still a quality television series. If you haven’t seen this show, then at least rent it to give it a chance. You might even like it enough to start your own protest to bring this show back.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for
The Black Donnellys: The Complete Series
(OUT OF 10)






Join our newsletter

never miss the latest news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary for Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games!