Boss, starring Kelsey Grammer as Chicago mayor Tom Kane, is an obvious departure for the actor after two decades of playing the kooky, snobbish Frasier Crane that earned the actor five Emmys over the course of the character’s life on both Cheers and Frasier. Kane is a kingmaker, manipulator and master communicator. Unfaithful to his wife and unencumbered by loyalty to anyone in his public or personal life, Kane’s only real motivation is power.
His wife Meredith (Connie Nielsen) is the daughter of the city’s former mayor and a political powerbroker in her own right. Thiers is a marriage of political convenience than anything else. It’s a partnership apparently built on their mutual need for political relevancy, and little else. They long since stopped living in the same house and they are both estranged from daughter Emma (Hannah Ware), who works as a pastor in a bad part of town.
Politically, Tom Kane is at the top of the heap and not afraid to throw his weight around. He’s decided that he wants the current governor Mac Cullen (Francis Guinan) out. He intends to replace him with a young, eager state treasurer Ben Zajac (Jeff Hephner), to remind people just how powerful he is. But, even as he reigns supreme at city hall, Tom Kane is hiding a deep, dark secret. He has recently been diagnosed with a rare brain disorder called Lewy body. Said to be related to both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, sufferers experience tremors, loss of memory, and hallucinations. As the disease slowly eats away at Tom’s brain, he will eventually become incapacitated, unable to fulfill his duties as mayor. Should anyone find out about his condition now, Tom will be swiftly replaced; something he’s neither ready, nor willing to accept without a fight.
Kane is as crooked as they come. Don’t think those around him are angels. Secretary Zajac exudes baby faced innocence He makes a lot of noise about wanting to be his own man on the campaign trail, but when it comes right down to it, he proves himself willing to do whatever it takes to get elected. Married with two young children, Zajac also takes every opportunity he can to engage in risky hook-ups with savvy mayoral aide Kitty O’Neil (Kathleen Robertson).
The one guy in the bunch—so far—is journalist Sam Miller (Troy Garity) who possesses a Woodward and Bernstein like determination to expose Kane and his cronies as the crooks that they are. Though I can’t help but wonder if his zeal will make him vulnerable to the favors and kickbacks Kane’s men might offer Miller in the future to keep him quiet.
With the pilot episode directed by executive producer Gus Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho, Good Will Hunting, Milk) a vision for the show—similar to a Shakespearean tragedy—is well laid out. We learn what makes each of the characters tick. While we may not like them, by the end of the two hour pilot, we want to know more. The season’s other directors; including Mario Van Peebles, Jim McKay and Jean de Segonzac do a fairly good job at following Van Sant’s lead; carefully peeling back the layers of the characters and their stories.
Nearly all the performances are exceptional, with the occasional exception of Hannah Ware as Emma. Her voice just sounds whiny at times to me. Kelsey Grammer proves himself to be a real star here. His Tom Kane is powerful and tormented; confident and scared. Despite being a truly bad man, he does have glimmers of humanity. We see this in his efforts to reconnect with his daughter Emma, even after his wife coldly cut ties with her years before in the name of political expediency.
Season One’s eight episodes are spread over two Blu-ray discs and presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Lionsgate’s 1080p transfer shows a nice level of sharpness, though contrast is a bit murky at times. Color saturation isn’t as good as one might have hoped, making faces appear a bit paler than normal. Otherwise, colors appear very nicely, if not exactly vibrant. Black levels are quite good and digital anomalies aren’t an issue.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix is quite impressive. Directionalized dialogue is noticeable throughout. Further, all instances of dialogue are clean and clear. Music is well spaced and there are no hisses, pops, or other anomalies to report.
English, English SDH and Spanish subtitles are available.
The following special features are included:
- Audio Commentaries – There are two commentaries. There is one on the first disc for the pilot episode, “Listen” then there is one on the second disc for “Choose.” The pilot episode commentary with creator Farhad Safinia and cinematographer Kasper Tuxen is very technically oriented, but a great listen if you’re curious how they shoot this series. They discuss the 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 away. From there they talk about all manner of aspects from shooting locations, photography, acting, and how the story evolved. “Choose,” the season finale offers creator Farhad Safinia and producer Richard Levine discussing the first season.
- The Mayor and his Maker (HD, 16:39) Farhad Safinia and Kelsey Grammer sit down in an informal setting to discuss how the show came to be.