BOSS

BOSS – S1E08

"Choose"

I have had—and continue to have—a lot of faith in Boss, but I think even the show’s biggest fans would have to admit that this first season has been frustratingly uneven. From moment to moment, Boss has seemed to teeter on the razor’s edge between the ridiculous and the sublime, never coming down completely on either side of the line. Those of us who have invested in it—and, sadly, there don’t seem to be many of us—have been waiting impatiently to see which way it was ultimately going to go. Continue reading

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BOSS – S01E07

"Stasis"

Boss is at its best when it pulls all its various threads together into one tight, taut strand. It happened two weeks ago with "Remembered," and it happens again this week with "Stasis," the season's penultimate episode, written by Bradford Winters. Continue reading

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BOSS – S01E06

"Spit"

"And everyone will be happy, all the millions of creatures, except for the hundred thousand of those who govern them. For only we, we who keep the mystery, only we shall be unhappy." — from The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I was initially annoyed at Boss for dropping a random reference to my favorite novel—Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov—in a scene that neither called for it nor explained it. Meeting with Kitty (Kathleen Robertson) about the class-action lawsuit against the mayor, a lawyer makes a clumsy, seemingly throwaway comment about how the mayor has a "choice." "Sort of," he says. "I mean, does man really have free choice? The Brothers Karamazov. 'The Grand Inquisitor?' Changed my life."

For me, the line fell flat—seeming to exist simply to make the character quirky, and to introduce a shallow literary reference—until hours later, when I actually thought about it in relation to the rest of the episode. The "Grand Inquisitor" chapter of The Brothers Karamazov is about free will (though not exactly in the way the scene implies); more to the point, however, it is about power, and governance, and the ways in which those who govern justify their crimes. Continue reading

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BOSS – S1E05

"Remembered"

This is the episode of Boss I've been waiting for. Written by Angelina Burnett, "Remembered" largely refrains from the show's usual smutty excesses, and scales back the personal soap opera to the point where it complements, but does not dominate, the more interesting goings-on at City Hall. With a strong premise and a clear narrative throughline—focusing on the staff's attempt to control the toxic-waste story—“Remembered” is a tight, tense, breathless hour of television. Continue reading

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BOSS – S1E04

"Slip"

Four episodes in, and I'm starting to feel that the problem with Boss may be its main character. This is not necessarily a reflection on Kelsey Grammer's performance, but the subplots surrounding Thomas Kane and his illness tend to be the most melodramatic and absurd, bogging the show down terribly and leading it into silliness after silliness. Continue reading

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BOSS – S1E03

"Swallow"

I like to imagine the writers' room at Boss as a constant negotiation between the side of the room that wants to do serious political drama and the side of the room that just wants lots and lots of gratuitous sex. In short, the battle for this show's soul is being fought between Team Wonk and Team Wank: Continue reading

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BOSS – S1E02

"Reflex"

I ended my review of the first episode of Boss saying that this show's success would depend on its willingness to balance its more sophisticated elements with its more sensationalistic ones. I have to begin this week's review making the same point, because I'm already worried that Boss is not really interested in fighting that battle. "Reflex" hews much closer to the sleazier side of the street than the pilot did. Continue reading

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BOSS – S1E1

"Listen"

"Chicago is not the most corrupt American city," Studs Terkel once said. "It is the most theatrically corrupt." It is that quality of theatrical corruption that makes Chicago (my adopted hometown) the perfect setting for Boss, a new original series on STARZ (Fridays, 10/9c). For, make no mistake, Chicago is every bit as much the central character of Boss as Baltimore was in The Wire, a show to which this series nobly aspires to resemble. Boss isn't The Wire, of courseit is indeed more "theatrical" than David Simon's series, and so more prone to the maudlin and melodramatic—but so far it is doing many very ambitious things right, and has the potential to be one of the best new shows of the year. Continue reading

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