The problem many actors face when they play a role as long as Kelsey Grammer played Frasier is that it’s hard to get audiences to see you as someone other than that character in another movie or TV show, regardless of how drastically different that undertaking may be. That said, from the minute Grammer first walks onscreen in Boss, there isn’t even a thought of “Look at Frasier trying to be an evil mayor!” or “Great to see Frasier back on the screen!” No, instead it’s just Grammer’s masterful performance that stands out, and the Boss is all you’ll have on your mind.
Boss really has everything going for it in its first season, as the pacing, performances and overall story really pull the viewer in to this political world of corruption and betrayal. The show begins with Mayor Tom Kane meeting with a doctor who explains to him that he’s got a rare degenerative brain disease for which there is no cure, and that he’s only got about three to five years before it will completely overtake his life. This works out well for the writers, as that’s basically the life span of a show like this, and it allows for them to work their magic within a given time-frame if the show continues to be successful. With a second season already ordered, it looks like Boss will at least make it to round three with this disease; however, if the show’s top quality remains in the coming seasons, he could make it all the way to round five, no problem.
There are eight episodes to the first season, and they’re eight extremely addictive episodes to watch. The writers keep the pacing relatively strong for each episode, which run at just under an hour each, and the cliffhanger endings really make the viewer want to start another episode, even if they should have already gone to sleep an hour earlier.
The show revolves around City Hall in Chicago, so it may be obvious to most that this is a very political program. The writing is strong, and the actions are stronger, though if you’re not into politics you may find yourself lost from time to time. Still, Boss does a good job of keeping things fairly easy to follow so that even if you find yourself not understanding a certain reasoning behind something, odds are you’ll be able to pick up on why it happened later, or just move on without it really hindering your experience.
As show creator and executive producer Farhad Safinia states in a special feature alongside Grammer, the show aims to have a Shakespearean vibe to it, with many relations to “King Lear” as well. It’s quite obvious with how things begin to play out right from the very beginning that Shakespeare was an inspiration for Safinia, as there’s plenty of tragedy and betrayal coming from all angles.
Grammer already won a Golden Globe for his work as Kane, and once you see him in action, it’s quite evident why this was an obvious choice. Kane is a complicated man, and Grammer helps give him the many layers he needs to be a character that audiences both love and hate, or even simply hate yet sympathize with. It’s impossible to have a successful show where the main character isn’t, in some way, cheered on by audiences, and this is one of those cases where this man will constantly shock us with his choices, and yet, we want to see him successfully find a way out of every sticky situation he finds himself in.
It’s an even bigger shock when Sam Miller (Troy Garity), a hard-nosed newspaper journalist who should be seen as the show’s “good guy”, is someone you find yourself disliking – even though he’s trying to do the right thing by exposing Kane for the corrupted politician he is. It reminds me of how much I loved watching Vic Mackey and the strike team on The Shield, and always rooted against the actual straight-laced cops who were trying to stop him.
There are a couple of sub-plots to be found within this eight-episode span, though they all somehow work their way into the main story on some level. Certain characters, such as Kitty O’Neill (Kathleen Robertson) have interesting traits that are partially explored early on in the show. However, as the episodes progress, the main story takes center stage (as it rightfully should) and these characteristics are unfortunately thrown by the wayside. It will be interesting to see if they come back to some of these traits in the second season (which will have a total of 10 episodes) or if they’ll just move on and leave the audience to assume the obvious, less interesting understanding of why Kitty does the things that she does.
Boss is a highly entertaining show, and it’s quite easy to fly through this eight-episode season in only a few days. It’s a dark show, with a very gritty tone to it, and while this sets it apart from the more run-of-the-mill dramas that appear each season, it may also turn off some viewers – especially with how remorseless some of the main characters can get at times.
But Boss isn’t a show about a good guy fighting the good fight, no, it’s a show about a man in power who will do anything to keep that power, and in order to do so he must battle deception, betrayal and even himself at any given time – and it’s a battle you don’t want to miss.
The audio quality for the show gets the job done, with sounds and dialogue coming through clearly at almost all times. The visuals are also well transferred to the DVD version of the show, though there are times when the images look a little muddy. This, however, isn’t a major distraction, and doesn’t happen very often.
There are a couple of audio commentary tracks to be found in this set, with one on disc one, and another on disc three.
The Mayor and his Maker – This feature runs at just under 17 minutes in length and sees Grammer and Safinia being interviewed about the show. It’s an interesting watch where we learn what inspirations caused the show to do certain things, and also how they came to set the show in Chicago. The two go back and forth and make this an easy watch for anyone interested.
Boss is an entertaining show, with spectacular performances found within – especially by star Kelsey Grammer. While the characters aren’t particularly likable, there’s still a desire to want to see at least Kane succeed in his actions and outsmart those around him, if for no other reason than to delay his inevitable fall from grace, be it by his own actions, or the ticking time bomb eating away at him from within. Highly recommended.
Lionsgate presents Boss: Season One. Starring: Kelsey Grammer, Troy Garity, Jeff Hephner, Hannah Ware, Connie Nielsen, Sanaa Lathan, Kathleen Robertson, James Vincent Meredith, Francis Guinan, Martin Donovan. Boxset Contents: 8 episodes on 3 DVDs. Released: July 24, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.