Wednesday

R.I.P. Boss

It was announced this week that Starz has cancelled Boss, the show starring Kelsey Grammar as the Mayor of Chicago. On the one hand I'm not surprised since the show didn't have the greatest ratings, but I'm disappointed. It was an incredibly interesting show, though it was also a deeply flawed one.

When the show was good, it was very good. The pilot episode was, I think, the strongest of the series. Part of the reason for that was the skill of director Gus Van Sant, but it also put Grammar and his character front and center. For far too much of the show, Grammar is off to the side as time is spent with his aides, councilmen, journalists, construction workers, various other political and union officials. I understand the reasoning behind this–it helps provide a sense of the city as a complex system with the mayor at the heart of it, actions reverberating across the city and the state, but sometimes the stories and characters weren't nearly as interesting.

Another problem is that the other characters weren't always compelling or interesting. Or the actors just weren't up to the challenge. And others simply weren't given the opportunity to do more. Martin Donovan had too little to do in the first season, and I think the show would have been stronger if his character played more of a role and there was less of various journalists and construction workers, which were a distraction.

The pilot worked because there was a lot of the mayor and it gave a sense of who he was and the history of Chicago, because he didn't just see himself as being at the center of current events but as part of a history of the city and that works because he knows the history. His lengthy monologue about the late Mayor Anton Cermak and his forgotten role in shaping the city was a great piece of drama.

This is King Lear. This is the Mayor who finds out he has a neurological disorder and is struggling to hold onto power while simultaneously trying to control what will happen after he's gone. Some of the best scenes of the power and influence of the mayor and the fear and loyalty that he could inspire were found in the scenes with Grammar where he was given free reign to chew scenery and offer some great monologues. This wasn't a show that aspired to the West Wing and that mannered patter, but something more theatrical.

Apparently there's talk that the show will wrap up with a two hour movie, which would be a nice touch. Honestly, I've always liked Grammar–I remember him from Cheers, I liked Fraiser, though the show ran too long. This show had too short a run, and I have to admit, I never appreciated what a good actor he is.

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