Who would have guessed that a show that starts off with a character getting a very detailed diagnosis of a rare disease (it is kind of like Alzheimer’s crossed with Parkinson’s but not really either) would end up being the antagonist of the show. But there is Kelsey Grammer (X-Men: The Last Stand) at the start of Boss sitting in an abandoned warehouse getting his death sentence. Why an abandoned warehouse? Oh yeah, he is the mayor of Chicago and naturally would not want to be seen coming out of a doctor’s office, let alone a neurologist because it would be a sign of weakness.
Really the sickness could not have happened to a better person. Everything we fear that is happening behind closed doors, Grammer is doing: manipulating voting and voters, endangering constituents for personal and political gain, create fake scandals to hide his own, throwing anyone and everyone under the bus to save his political career, shutting down government instead of comprising, and pulling out every dirty trick in the book. And to make things worse, it looks like what little conscience he had left is slipping away as he holds onto his power as his mind slips away with his illness.
If there is one shred of humanity gained by Kelsey after his diagnosis is that he tries to reconnect with his only daughter Hanna Ware (Cop Out) after shunning her for years because of her drug use. Naturally their reconciliation is tense at first and culminates with the second biggest jaw dropping moment of the season so shocking I had to rewind a couple times to make sure I saw what I just saw. For all intents and purposes, the mayor is also estranged from his wife, but since Connie Nielsen (The Ice Harvest) also comes from a political family, she still puts on the mayor’s wife in public but stays clear of him in private.
As for the biggest jaw dropping moment of the season, that comes when Grammer sits down with his advisor Martin Donovan (Weeds) in the final episode of season. Really whenever these two do down to chew the fat it pretty awesome, but their final powwow of the season is particularly epic (for those that have seen the series and wonder what that final discussion meant, in the audio commentary, the creator says that you will know what exactly happened at the start of the second season).
Despite being a political show, it does not really make any political statement like The West Wing (or any Aaron Sorkin show). We never even learn the party affiliation of anyone on the show (although being Chicago, it I easy to assume everyone we see is a Democrat), there is no debate on health care, gun, abortions, or Michelle Bachman’s sanity. Really the only time they get into a hot button political subject is the handsome candidate for governor that Grammer is grooming who is quick to say the right thing to voters and even quicker to spot a female with a short skirt, which is a one of the few missteps the show takes when it veers to close to John Edwards (or any other philandering politician). Really I was more interested in his wife who steps out from the shadows later in the season (and I assume will have a bigger role next season as she is on the poster).
One other valid complaint and something I really hate on television shows are all the “dream sequences.” But since hallucinations are a side effect of the drugs he is on they are also necessary, especially because it is seems as though we are witnessing the whole show through his eyes. This means we get some shaky camera use and close ups so gratuitous and long it becomes claustrophobic as a viewer. Of course you should expect some weird things, even in a political show, when Gus Van Sant (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues) is the executive producer and directed the series premiere.
The special features on the Blu-ray are a little thin (the press release feature the same things although there are only two blu-ray dicks compared to three DVD’s), there is a featurette “The Mayor and His Maker” which features about a twenty minute discussion between Kelsey Grammer and creator Farhad Safinia. There is also an audio commentary with Safinia and director of photography for the premiere and Farhad is then joined by executive producer Richard Levine for the finale. With only eight episodes, it should be easy to catch up before the second season starts August 17. Although if you do not have Starz, it should be really easy to catch up by the time the second season is released on Blu-Ray and DVD is about a year. And for those that do not like the clutter of disks lying around, the series will also be available by digital download including iTunes starting today.
Full Disclosure Notice: This blu-ray was given to me by Bender / Helper Impact for the purpose of reviewing it.