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Kingpin [TV Series]

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // Unrated // July 22, 2003
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Shannon Nutt | posted July 3, 2003 | E-mail the Author
THE EPISODES

When Kingpin first aired, it was supposed to be NBC's answer to The Sopranos, but less than spectacular ratings caused the network not to pick up the show as part of their fall schedule and any future for the program, on NBC or elsewhere, seems unlikely – unless, of course, this DVD set proves to be a success.

Actually, I have a pretty good theory about why this series (which actually turns out to be fairly good) failed: the pilot is horrible. The first hour of the show is so confusing, with so many characters to keep track of and a story that is hard to follow, that I'm not surprised that ratings took a big dip after the premiere. Honestly, after watching the first episode, I wasn't too anxious to see the rest of the series either, but continued because I knew I would be reviewing this for DVD Talk – and found myself pleasantly surprised at the quality of the remaining five episodes.

Kingpin basically tells the story of a drug cartel that is situated in Mexico, close to the Texas border. Yancey Arias stars as Miguel Cadena, an Ivy League educated Latino with an American wife (Twin Peaks' Sheryl Lee) who knows that he will one day take charge of his family's cartel, but is torn between what he knows he must do and his aversion to actually doing it. Miguel has a brother, Chato (Bobby Cannavale) who isn't as opposed to the life of running a cartel as Miguel is, which makes for a nice contrast between the two brothers that is very Godfatheresque in nature (think Michael and Sonny Corleone).

The series also has a number of subplots, including one about a DEA agent (Angela Alvarado Rosa) who is haunted by a mistake she made that killed her partner; and a plastic surgeon (Brian Benben) caught up in both the drug world and an ongoing divorce settlement with his soon-to-be ex-wife (Sean Young). But the real drive of this program is Miguel's story, as he constantly has an internal struggle between what is right and what is wrong, and it's kind of a shame that we won't get to see any more of this character on our TV screens – especially since this is probably the strongest Latino role ever portrayed on network TV.

One final note for potential viewers: this is the producer's cut of Kingpin, meaning this is a more R-rated version than the one that originally aired on NBC. So what does that mean for you, the viewer? Well, about what you'd expect – a little more nudity, some profanities sprinkled in here and there and (I'm guessing, since I didn't see the original version) some more violence when it comes to some of the killings that occur in this series.

THE DVD

Video:
Kingpin is presented in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen, and the transfer is a pretty good one. The series has a "soft" look to it, which gives it more of a theatrical feel than a television one, but there is no evidence of any major glitches or problems in the overall video on this DVD. It's a nice, solid transfer for a TV series.

Audio
Audio is available in 5.1 Dolby, as well as a Spanish 2.0 track. The 5.1 track is well-done and moderately aggressive, with a nice mix between the dialogue, music and sound effects. Like the video transfer, the audio is quite good for a TV series transferred to the digital format.

Extras:
This is where the Kingpin set suffers the most and where fans of the show and buyers are most likely to be upset. There are very few features at all. The first two DVDs (each of which contain two episodes) contain no extras whatsoever – only a chapter selection for each episode. The third DVD does contain some Cast Interviews, although in-total they only run about 20 minutes (and only that long because the interview with Executive Producer/Creator David Mills lasts 10 minutes). There's also a 30-second NBC Promo for their three Law & Order series. But those are the only extras provided in this set.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Kingpin doesn't quite match The Sopranos in quality storytelling, but it certainly was better than most of what passes for drama on network television these days. Fans of the show will probably want to pick this one up, despite the lack of any significant bonus material. For the rest of you, Kingpin is definitely worth the rental, although it probably doesn't pack quite enough punch (either in story or DVD features) to make it a permanent part of your collection.
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