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Boss: Season 1

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // Unrated // July 24, 2012
List Price: $39.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Neil Lumbard | posted July 26, 2012 | E-mail the Author

Boss is the latest series starring Kelsey Grammer in an attempt to reinvigorate his career. Unlike some of the previous attempts, the Frasier star has found true success with a dark, gritty, and compelling drama about the "boss" mayor Tom Kane (performed by Grammer) and his dark dealings with serious illness while running laps within his own corrupted political world.

The story setup is this: Tom Kane, a powerful mayor, finds out that he has been diagnosed with a degenerative brain disorder. He mostly keeps this information to himself and seems to be even more determined than ever to continue to rule as mayor and to find a replacement for himself, perhaps. Things seem to be in a new power-struggle as elections loom and back-handed and destructive politics play their hand as the various parties attempt to sway voters and earn an undisputed place in history. Tom Kane is ruthless, cruel, and worse to anyone he sees as an opponent.

Kane is married to Meredeith (Connie Nielsen) and has a daughter Emma (Hannah Ware) but he doesn't seem to have a strong relationship with either of them. Despite the fact that he lives in the same home as his wife they almost never see each other and they sleep in separate rooms. The couple hardly qualify as roommates because they both become so involved in a complicated web of political issues that it's as though the partnership is almost running on empty and only sticking together by a thinly layered web of political ties for their own power gains. Love is out of the question (or so it seems) because Kane is also uniformly unfaithful. The relationship has the appearance of falling apart. It is barely holding together. Meredeith, however, is just as interested in her own political gains and doesn't seem disinterested in her own shady political dealings.

Kane has moments where he seems to want to reconnect with his daughter, who he completely ignored and shut out for five years because of her addiction to drugs, and Kane worried about how this would affect his political image. Kane's attempts to reconnect seem half-way met. However, his daughter Emma is still doing drugs while preaching and working at a health institution at the same time. She preaches and delivers medical drugs to a poor community, something separating her from the political-led darkness of her father's attitude in his profession but an indisputable darkness surrounds the entire family: Tom Kane, Emma Kane, and Meredith Kane.

Kane is trying to get a "hot" newcomer Alex Zajac (Jeff Hephner) into high power in his wide spanning political web. The "show-stopping" black suit and tie politician is married with kids and he almost immediately begins an affair with Kitty O'Neill (Kathleen Robertson) after the meetings with Kane. O'Neill is working as an assistant to Kane. It is clear to see that she has some serious feelings for Zajac, but he doesn't return them with seriousness. In one of their "meetings" he asks her to sleep with him in an hour while a few feet from his wife and kids. Kitty O'Neill but watches him proceed to film a family-oriented political campaign ad, and afterwards she congratulates him on doing a good job with sincerity.

The series primary aim seems to be to set on highlighting the completely superb acting of Grammer and it is easy to see why he won a best performance golden globe. This series is seemingly made because of his performance. This role is a totally distanced turn from the beloved Frasier character. Kane isn't a character that you like or love but rather someone fascinating to behold in this character-based show. The rest of the performances are also unquestionably terrific but its Grammer's lead role that likely fascinates most audiences continually tuning in to the series.

Many of the episodes are written by showrunner Farhad Safinia (Apocalypto), who has seemingly decided to work in the realm of television after that largely successful debut. Everything about this show is well-written in the sense that the show keeps things quite interesting and compelling. The show sometimes (disappointingly) breaks away from an impressive feeling of award-winning drama territory to soap opera and late-night cable TV territory. The series is a bit too overdramatic and over-the-top sometimes, but that's probably what many viewers are looking for anyway. I happen to like the show more when things are focused more intently on the characters than on keepings things as gritty as possible without thinking about character first. This show sometimes steps across the line of quality TV but it walks a line of close maintenance where the show still manages to be mostly compelling despite the various detractors.

Gus Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho, Good Will Hunting) does an incredible job directing the series pilot episode, which absolutely feels more akin to a feature film than a television episode. The other directors of Boss do excellent work too but it was a treasure to see one of my favorite filmmakers in the pilot-helming seat of one of the past season's most intriguing new series. The series doesn't completely hit a home run, but it certainly manages to be an edge-of-your-seat and compelling thrill-ride with enough to offer to make it worth checking out.

The DVD:


Boss arrives on Blu-ray with an AVC encoded 1.78:1 transfer that shines with stunning High Definition video. It is a clean presentation that properly presents the unique cinematography, which presents the series with a lot of overcast hues of blues and grays. This series also has something of a darker-tone to the aesthetic look and its befitting the series. Just like any of HBO's and Showtime's finely produced series, Boss is an impressive production and a HD success for Starz.


The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is much better than you would expect for this kind of series. It's a compelling mix that actually engages the surrounds when needed and not just for music either. There's enough reason to have the sound-field active and the city sounds and office business is clearly defined through this crisp audio presentation.


There are barely any supplemental materials on this release. Two commentaries are included for the season: the episodes entitled Listen and Choose. Both feature writer/creator Farhad Safinia along with another production member.

The Mayor and His Maker (HD) is a less than twenty minute long sit-down with Farhad Safinia and Kelsey Grammer about the series.

Final Thoughts:

Boss isn't necessarily "great" or "groundbreaking" television but it's interesting and has several compelling performances. Kelsey Grammer is the star of the show in a particularly unique role that has audiences invested in seeing where the series might lead to in season two. Perhaps beyond that Boss is a show worth checking out for its inventive plot-lines and solid craftsmanship.

Highly Recommended.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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Highly Recommended

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