Boss: Season OneOverview -
Mayor Tom Kane (Grammer) is King of Chicago and he rules his domain with an iron fist. Deception, scandal and betrayal go hand in hand with Kane's form of politics. As long as he gets the job done, the people of Chicago look the other way. Despite being the most effective mayor in recent history, Kane is hiding a dark secret. A degenerative brain disorder is ripping everything away from him and he can't trust his memory, his closest allies or even himself.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
Politics is a dirty game, which is why a man like Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer) loves it so much. He's the mayor of Chicago and he holds onto his power using all the conniving plans that we love to hate politicians for. Kane has clout and he throws his weight around as he sees fit. He's decided that he wants the current governor Mac Cullen (Francis Guinan) out. He's going to replace him with a fresh faced state treasurer in order to let people know just how powerful he is.
With all this political muckraking going on, Kane has one deep, dark secret. No it isn't the fact that he's estranged from his wife, Meredith (Connie Nielsen), and has little to no relationship with her. It isn't that he and his daughter, Emma (Hannah Ware) haven't talked in years because she used to be addicted to drugs. It isn't even that he orders hookers on a daily basis. Tom Kane has a secret far more serious. He's been diagnosed with a rare brain disorder called Lewy body. This Parkinson's-like disease causes tremors, loss of memory, and hallucinations. As the disease slowly eats away at his brain, Tom will become more and more unable to fulfill his mayoral duties. If anyone finds out about his condition he'll be whisked out of office and replaced. Tom craves the power his appointment gives him, so there's no way he's letting go without a fight.
'Starz' really upped their game in the original programming department with a show like 'Boss.' 'Spartacus,' while entertaining, seemed like an excuse to out-sex and out-violence HBO and Showtime, without much substance to go along with it. 'Boss' keeps the risqué aura which Starz has culled for their original programming, but adds characters, plots, and situations that are well worth your time to follow.
Kane is a piece of work. He's instantly mesmerizing the first time you see him on screen. His brutal, take-no-prisoners approach to politics is both appalling and applause-worthy. He works the system with Tony Soprano-esque efficiency. Grammer won a Golden Globe for his performance in the show and it was well-deserved. You've never seen the famous actor quite like this. He's mean and vindictive. He's constantly power hungry. Even when he's putting on a smiling face for the cameras or the rally crowds, you can see the cut-throat politician bubbling under the surface. He may be a bad man, but his abrasive nature makes him impossible not to watch.
'Boss' is another series in the long line of new shows that seems to feature no real "good guys." Most of the characters dwell in the gray, at best. Each of them have their own demons to deal with. At a few points in the first season you end up feeling sorry for Kane until you realize that you're being sucked in just as his constituents have been. Grammer does a perfect job at playing up both the ruthless politician and the sickly old man. The way he switches back and forth is uncanny.
If you're tired of shows showing you how terrible the ins and outs of behind-the-scenes politics are, then maybe 'Boss' isn't for you. Politicians are terrible people, at least in the world of 'Boss' (which incidentally doesn't do much in the way of casting a good light on the city's already infamous politics). For some it may be a hard show to watch, but it's certainly well made. The pilot episode is even directed by Gus Van Sant, with some of the following episodes being directed by familiar face Mario Van Peebles. Starz was able to populate the show with enough talent to let it excel, and it does.
'Boss' may be a dark and dank ride through the world of crooked politicians and their devious modes of operating, but it's worth the journey. It's worth it because of the performances and the story. 'Boss' has the whole package.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a Lionsgate release. The season is eight one-hour episodes. They come on two 50GB Discs packed into a standard size keepcase which has a slipcover. The back of the cover indicates a Region A only release.
Even in the darkest corridors and corners of Chicago's political world, 'Boss's 1080p picture shines. Here we're presented with a nearly flawless transfer featuring wonderfully saturated details, vividly bright colors, and deep inky blacks.
The show is full of extreme close-ups on faces (and specific sexual body parts during certain scenes). It's easy to see details as tiny as goosebumps form on the skin. Close-ups on eyes reveal details in the irises and veins around the eye. Pores are instantly visible giving the show a high-def look. There are never any soft scenes to speak of (except when the edges of the shot are specifically made to look feathered for a certain look).
Colors are well-saturated. From the grays, blacks, and browns of the Chicago skyscrapers to the green grasses of the city's golf courses, whatever color the video is presenting shines. Skintones are always natural and never seem out of balance. Contrast is taken care of. Shadows are nicely cast, giving the show a nicely delineated picture. Everything about the look of this show is better on Blu-ray. I originally watched it on my Comcast hook-up and artifacts appeared often enough to be distracting. Here, everything is crystal clear. This is a great looking TV show.
Lionsgate provides the show with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix. Unlike 'Nurse Jackie' (another Lionsgate property that is released with DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1) 'Boss' seems to use the extra channels to its benefit. There are many more scenes and situations where the added channels help create an enveloping feeling.
Open Chicago streets are alive with ambient sound. The rear and side channels pick up honking cars, chatting people, and the applause of the many political speech gatherings in the show. As Tom Kane gives his speech in the first episode, endorsing Mac Cullen, you'll be able to hear his voice reverberating through the surround speakers, much like it would be if you were standing in the middle of that crowd listening to him speak.
The soundtrack music calls for a heavy helping of subtle bass. This isn't shake-your-room bass, but the LFE here is nice and consistent throughout. Dialogue is always clear and never broken up by the constant thoroughfare of Chicago life. Whenever a conversation takes place outside on the busy streets of the city, voices are prioritized in such a way that they never become lost or garbled with all the other action around them. There may not be a lot of "wow" moments here, but the 7.1 mix for 'Boss' is an engulfing mix simply because it's so well put together.
- Audio Commentaries – There are two commentaries. There is one on the first disc for the pilot episode then there is one on the second disc. The annoying thing is that you select the commentary option from the Special Features menu, but there isn't any indication of what episode the commentaries are actually for. There isn't any way to check which episodes have commentaries in the Episode Selection menu either.
The pilot episode commentary with creator Farhad Safinia and cinematographer Kasper Tuxen is very technically oriented, but a great listen if you're wondering how they construct and shoot shows like this. They discuss the very opening scene, where the camera lingers on Grammer as he's getting the news about his disease. They talk about how they wanted to distance Grammer from his 'Fraiser' days right off the bat so this scene shows you a whole new character that Grammer really has never been before. From there they talk about all manner of aspects from shooting locations, photography, acting, and how the story evolved.
- The Mayor and his Maker (HD, 16 min.)– Creator Farhad Safinia and Kelsey Grammer sit down in an informal setting to discuss the show. I found it interesting that the show was originally born from a round of drinks as Safinia and Grammer discussed doing a show together and started talking about Shakespeare and King Lear. From there it all evolved into 'Boss.' This feature is basically the ins and outs of how the show came to be and how it's progressed, while being discussed in a very engaging and candid way. The feature is edited heavily with clips from the show that feel more like filler than actual content though.
'Boss' is political thriller fraught with devious characters trying their best to hold onto the power that they so desperately crave. It doesn't show politics in a good light, but that's just the point. The people in this show aren't moral people. They speak and preach about morals, but they don't act on them, it's basically politics like you always thought they were being played. The key here is Grammer's performance. His cruelty knows no bounds, but he's okay with that as long as he's winning. With stellar video and audio presentations, this Starz show comes highly recommended.
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