Saturday, January 04, 2014

TV Series Sampled : The Good Wife, Boss, The Sopranos.

Over the period known in the USA as "The Holidays" we rented some DVDs from our local video store, among them were Season 1 of The Good Wife (2009), and Season 1 of Boss (2011) - lots of episodes in each kept us busy. The Good Wife, created by Robert King and Michelle King is now in its 5th season on CBS, so we're way behind the times on that. Boss, created by Farhad Safinia, lasted only two seasons on Starz channel, but there's promise of a future 2 hour TV movie to finish off loose ends.

During Fall we'd finished watching Seasons 1 and 3 of The Sopranos. The Season 3 set I'd found in a junk store whose owner sold it to me for just one dollar - how could I refuse? I then bought a used Season 1 set at E-bay in order to get some grounding in the series. The Sopranos has had such enormous acclaim over the years that I felt confident we'd enjoy it, even though I've never been a fan of Italian mafia stories.

We watched Season 1, were not impressed. Season 3 remained on the shelf for a while, but we watched that too eventually, and  remained  unimpressed.  Too much violence, too many nasty characters with no redeeming characteristics - I simply didn't care what happened to anyone in the series, couldn't wait for each episode to be over.  Perhaps it would all have "come good" in season 4 - I don't know, and am unlikely to find out.

So, back to The Good Wife and Boss. Both series were coincidentally set in Chicago. The Good Wife is yet another drama series about lawyers. It's...I dunno...workmanlike I guess. Not as addictive as Boston Legal or as much fun as Ally McBeal - nor of the quality of any of David E. Kelley's series about lawyers, yet The Good Wife plots, ongoing story arc and excellent acting are interesting enough to hold the attention.

Julianna Margulies plays Alicia Florrick, betrayed wife of a State's Attorney (Chris Noth). There's a clear reflection of real life events involving such US notables as Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards et al. Part of each episode is reserved for the ongoing marital saga, and part for  legal cases undertaken by Alicia in her role as Junior Associate at a very swish city law firm. In Season 1 any romance between characters is kept to a minimum, definite attractions hinted at but never allowed to fully blossom, that'll be for later seasons. The tone is serious, believable, though not depressingly so.

Stand-out performances by Julianna Margolies and by an actor I recognised immediately but couldn't name without reference to Google search: Alan Cumming. He plays Eli Gold a campaign strategist, image consultant and crisis manager . He's a British (Scottish) actor now a US Citizen. Quinky-dink (thanks for the word,"mike"): Alan Cumming has the same birthday as me, 27 January (different year), and became a US citizen in the same year, 2008, 2 months after me. (In the photograph he's standing 3rd from left). Out of curiosity I shall investigate some of his other roles.

Boss aka Mayor of Chicago, did not entertain or hold our attention until the last few episodes of Season 1 - apart perhaps from the odd giggle at frequent soft-porn-worthy sex scenes.

Kelsey Grammer plays the lead, ailing Mayor Tom Kane, a character very different from those rather pretentious but unintentionally funny twits Mr Grammer has been used to portraying.

As a 21st century mayor of one of the USA's major cities, he comes over as something of an anachronism - I kept thinking back to a movie about Huey Long, governor of Louisiana in the late 1920s to early 1930s. Or - a better comparison would be a character from a graphic novel, exaggerated and not entirely believable. In fact the whole show, at times, reminded me of a graphic novel in style. Numerous "sexy" quickies between characters in near-porn close-up and ridiculously risky situations, unpleasant bullying, cut-off ears, burials alive..... tacky, nasty. Political shenanigans continuing throughout the plot are par for the course these days, most of us have become aware of the dirty corruption behind smiles and promises in national politics, in this drama the same things are reflected at city level. The corruption that is portrayed in the series is a good analogy of what is going on at national level, all the time. There's a poisoned water supply, much wheeler-dealing among a powerful cabal of money-grabbing guys, power behind the throne as it were; there are several murders to cover corruption, all topped off with lots of explicit, supposedly titilating sex scenes - to attract a certain type of audience no doubt.

Boss picked up momentum for us in the final three episodes of the first season. I'll be interested to discover how the story progressed in Season 2, though probably by reading about it rather than watching.

I'm not surprised that while The Good Wife is now in its fifth season, Boss survived only two. Kelsey Grammer, in interview with Jay Leno said he felt the show wasn't nominated for an Emmy due to his own political leanings.
The Frasier star is a member of the Republican Party and has expressed an interest in politics saying he may someday run for United States Congress. An active campaigner for the GOP, Grammer was a guest at President George W. Bush's first inauguration, campaigned for John McCain in the 2008 general election and endorsed Michele Bachmann for the Republican nomination for President in 2012.
It's unlikely that Mr Grammer's politics had anything to do with the show's cancellation. His Republicanism didn't prevent him doing well in previous shows, Cheers and Frasier. In the right director's and/or editor's hands, if shown on a more widely available channel, I suspect Boss could have been a big success. Any potential quality the show promised was spoiled by overdone brutality and unbelievable sex scenes. Kelsey Grammer's performance was impressive, Connie Nielsen, playing his wife was good too. The rest of the cast, especially younger members, were wooden at best, which didn't help counteract the silliness and hyperbole of some scenes. Many ultra-close close-up shots of sub-par actors' faces and individual features didn't help either, and at times were comical rather than dramatic. If Boss had retained more polish, less tacky viewer-bait, I think it could have survived longer, and to more acclaim.


mike said...

I haven't viewed any of the shows you present here, Twilight. I have a sheltered life when it comes to TV and movies on the big screen. I tend to like it that way, but I have to admit that there are various programs that I'm sure I would enjoy viewing.

There are many selection available over the net, but I don't enjoy watching them on my computer screen and I haven't linked my computer to my TV, which I can do with my MS7 "home edition". Several friends highly recommend the Roku streaming device:

I enjoyed Kelsey Grammer on "Cheers" years ago...enjoyed his character's wife, Lilith, more! I've heard so many negatives about him over the past decade that it has ruined his characterizations for me...I can't get past the real him to appreciate his portrayals. He's conservative and has some stringent viewpoints that grate on me, plus his creepy divorce from his creepy wife, Camille (aka "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,"), left me cold.

Speaking of being left cold, the front coming down hits tomorrow and the forecast is for below freezing temperatures for here, which means REALLY cold for you in OK and my relatives in KS. I'll lose my tangelos (sob), since they are just now turning orange...I'll have to strip my lemon tree today or early tomorrow morning...probably 200 hundred lemons...I'll have to give many away and freeze a few for later. We haven't had a freeze here in three years. Stay warm...I think it hits your area today.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Streaming seems to be the in-thing nowadays. We'll stick with DVDs and VHS tapes for now though.
Cheap to rent or buy in junk stores.
I didn't know of Kelsey Grammer's
politics before. I'd seen several episodes of "Frasier", not many of "Cheers", thought he was okay but wouldn't have been an absolute fan. He does a good job of portraying Tom Kane in "Boss" though.

The extra-cold spell is due to begin here in earnest tomorrow and continue on Monday. We've had a couple of similar very cold snaps here already, in fact the whole winter has been colder, so far, than any I remember since I've been here. We had a mini-ice storm a couple of weeks back, with the trees groaning and crackling weirdly under ice cover - brought down lots of big branches around us, including some from our trees.

Lemons on a lemon tree - in January! Gosh! It's 526 miles from here, due south, to where you live (just looked it up) -
so not too surprising there's such a big difference.

You stay warm too!