HBO's new series The Deuce from the creator of The Wire and Treme takes us to 1970's New York City into the seedy underbelly of the porn industry, along with its pimps, prostitutes, and mafia. We get a front row seat to the pimpin' business as new mid-west girls come to the Big Apple and become ladies of the night, as well as the start and growth of the porn industry boom and how NYC police officers dealt with it at the time. It's a fantastic concoction of characters and stories that weave in and out with one another. The video and audio presentations are both very good and immersive, while the supplements are worth your time, even if they cover the same subjects over and over. Highly Recommended!
When most people head to New York City, one of the hot spots is Times Square. Those iconic intersections are known to host gigantic neon and video signs, and are home to street entertainers and big corporations where hundreds of millions of people visit each year. If you've been to Times Square in the last few decades, you'd know that it's mostly a family friendly place where you can see artists playing music, be in the background of a daytime morning show and take pictures of yourself in the platinum jungle of New York. Prior to the 1980s though, Times Square was a much different place than it's seen today, as the family friendly aspect was non-existent, but was rather the direct spot for most criminal activity including prostitution, gambling, and the porn mecca of the United States during the 60s and 70s. This is where HBO's new series The Deuce is set from show creator David Simon (The Wire).
From the show's first season, we can already see that The Deuce is a younger sibling to The Wire with some of the same cast and the unique ability to tell a realistic and well-researched story that involved a large cast of characters who all seem to directly and indirectly interact with one another, while showcasing both sides to the story. James Franco plays identical twin brothers Vinnie and Frankie, where Vinnie is a hard-working guy trying to make ends meet for his family, while Frankie on the other hand is a fast-talking con-artist who is always getting into trouble. After Vinnie's marriage fails, he sticks to working his bar most of the time, but then starts to advocate into the sexual realm of the porn industry by hiring street girls to work the bar for better business.
Of course, his brother gets in on the business, but crosses paths with some organized crime bosses to make even more money. Meanwhile, we meet a slew of different pimps who spend most of their time at bus stations looking for a new crop of young girls running away from home and into the big city, or eating at the local diner, conducting monetary business out in the open. There is also the law enforcement angle who walk the thin line of corruption and going easy on the pettier crimes, while the prostitutes themselves reveal the many emotions and psyche into their decisions to live this certain life.
One of these prostitutes that stands out in the show is Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who prides herself in not needing or wanting a pimp, but making it on her own. This journey takes her to the start of the booming porn industry where she takes up more than just acting on screen. I could go on and discuss at least fifteen more important characters who all have incredible and meaningful story arcs, which just goes to show you how in depth this show really is.
Like The Wire, Simon and his creative staff weave every character and storyline with one another, and show how temptation and corruption can influence the most innocent of people. Some go down a dark road and others redeem themselves. It all makes for a fantastic and entertaining series that utilizes the 1970's era perfectly as well as its music. If you're uncomfortable with nudity, The Deuce might make you shut your eyes in certain scenes as this series has full frontal nudity from both sexes. As the first season comes to a close, we are set up for some enthralling developments as it seems these first several episodes served to introduce us into this past world we once lived in.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Deuce Season One comes with three 50GB Blu-ray Discs from HBO. There is also a digital download code insert for iTunes or Ultraviolet. The three discs and insert are housed in an eco-friendly hard blue plastic case with the inside box art, giving episode information. The case is housed in a cardboard sleeve.
The Deuce: The Complete First Season comes with a great 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This show looks impressive for being a gritty series that takes place in the dirty 1970's Big Apple. HBO always delivers great video presentations and this one is no different with exceptional detail and vivid colors that showcase the era. Colors in the wild wardrobes are vibrant and bold, especially on the various pimp's coats and suits. The prostitutes' revealing clothing manage to stand out as well.
The neon signs in Times Square always brighten up the screen as do the interiors of the grimy bars and movie theaters. In certain exterior scenes, a slight blue filter is applied whereas in some of the well-lit interior locations have a light amber filter to give off the contrast of the warmth and coldness of society in the 70s. It works well here and accents each primary color on every actor. Black levels are consistently deep and inky and the skin tones are all natural here. Detail is sharp and vivid as well, which reveals individual facial hairs in beards and even scars, wrinkles, and wounds nicely on everyone.
Other facial pores, moles, and stretch marks can be easily seen as well as most everyone's body is exposed at some point. Wider shots of the re-created Times Square in the 70's are outstanding with detail in the trashy looking buildings as well as individual stitching in the lace clothing and fur coats. There are also zero issues with banding, aliasing or video noise, leaving this video presentation filmic, yet clean.
This release comes with a fantastic lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and captures the time period perfectly with the iconic 70's music. The song list and score are key to every element in the show, which luckily comes across as robust and full in every transition and big scene. It's never over-powering, either. Sound effects are also muscular in the big city life as vehicles drive by with their old clanky engines, which pack some heft to the sound.
Gunshots are loud as are the punches and kicks the prostitutes endure. It all sounds realistic. The bass rumbles when the soundtrack roars and the ambient noises of crowded bars, apartment buildings, and walking the streets all sound excellent with some amazing directionality. You can feel the immersion during the crowded scenes, which is nice. The dialogue is clear and easy to follow along with and is free of any pops, cracks, hiss, and shrills.
Audio Commentaries - There are two commentary tracks here. One track is on Ep. 1 and the other is on Ep. 8, which feature David Simon, James Franco, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and various other crew members. The tracks consists of discussions on bringing the 1970's to life by actually building the sets, their research into the sex industry, the true stories these characters are based on, and more. I only wish there were more tracks to listen to.
Inside the Episodes (HD, 15 Mins.) - Each disc contains a small EPK-like promo piece on each episode where the cast and crew talk about making the specific episode.
The Wild West: New York in the Early 70's (HD, 12 Mins.) - Here we have the cast and crew talking about New York City during the 1970's and how they re-created those days and places. Some vintage footage is also shown throughout of the time period.
The Deuce In Focus (HD, 8 Mins.) - Here are some more interviews with the cast and crew as they discuss the time period, the culture back then, and more.
The Deuce: The Complete First Season is an amazing start to a new HBO series from the best of the best out there. The attention to detail is phenomenal for the 1970's setting and the performances and characters are all layered and pretty much perfect. You just want to spend more time in this chaotic, yet exotic locale, even if it makes you feel dirty. The video and audio presentations are both great and the extras are worth watching, even if it's redundant. Highly Recommended!