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5.0 out of 5 stars The "Boss" Returns to a Second (but, Sadly, Last) Season, June 19, 2013
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This review is from: Boss: Season 2 [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
"Boss" is loosely based on the great 20th century mayors of Chicago who ran the Windy City with a mixture of power, political acumen, and (dare we say it) an honest wish for the success of the city (that is, as long as all three could be simultaneously achieved). As we watch the story of "Boss" unfold over two seasons, we see a powerful Chicago mayor (Mayor Kane) as he keeps an iron fist over what he has achieved over the years in coming up the ranks of the Chicago system, and doing so while he wrestles with a serious physical illness. Although endowing the character with this illness is the twist in the story that makes it different from the city's actual mayoral history, anyone who grew up in Chicago instantly recognizes the reference (as does any reader of Mike Royko's columns in the Chicago Tribune published over those years), a steely parallel between the role and the reality: it's like dirty street fighting waged in men's dress suits. Anyone raised in the Chicago area, too, recognizes all the details: the types of clothing, the names of towns throughout the state, the hairstyles, even the styles of glasses. Of course, there were no smart phones in those years, but this is a modern telling of a slightly older story. Somebody really got this right in both execution AND detail.

Fans of Boss were greatly excited to see the second season of this critically acclaimed show (Grammer won a Golden Globe for best dramatic performance in Season One), and, for the most part, Season Two does not disappoint. We can easily say again what we said after watching Season One of Boss: this is Grammer's greatest role to date, and demonstrates that his acting skills cover drama, not only comedy (as we saw in 11 years of Frasier). Grammer won four Emmy's for his work in Frasier, and, I believe, was nominated for even more, so it's a high bar to pass, but fans of Boss know that something very impressive is occurring in Grammer's portrayal of this role, something that had not happened even in a show as strong as Frasier. I said it after watching Season One of Boss, and I'll say it here again: Grammer is so good in this role that it is SCARY.

Grammer has said that "Boss" is not really about politics, but rather about the craving for power. Although I can see the argument, it's really difficult to untangle the two in this setting. But that is irrelevant. Boss takes you in and drops you off into this world of political machinations, power politics, dirty campaigning, and even municipal operations (we see almost as much of the city alderman and ward bosses as we do "the Boss" himself) to the point where this could be more Machiavelli than Royko, and anyone who is interested in how political wheelings and dealings occur in such a setting will almost certainly be fascinated. We see how the Boss faces every challenge, defies every obstacle, and navigates through (and between) deceit, both personal and political, to keep himself where he wishes to be, at the reins of this most central of cities.

A small criticism of Season Two of "Boss" has been that some of the story lines become a bit more extravagant and difficult believe when compared to Season One. That may be partially true, but it's not a big concern. It is true that the first season stayed within a somewhat more constrained story line and that the second tends to open up multiple simultaneous lines. Some of Season Two can be a bit difficult to follow because of that very fact, and that's why purchasing this on disk is helpful, because you may very well need to watch the show twice to pick up all the twists and outcomes. But after watching Season One and have started Season Two, you'll likely be hanging on every scene to see how the stories play out. But the overarching story line is a somewhat unusual premise, a city boss with a terrible illness and a city to keep in his pocket while he keeps himself together. And Grammer does it superbly: this is certainly his best work to date, and you find yourself being drawn into the story because of the commanding performance he elicits. The excellent performances of nearly everyone makes it a great ensemble cast.

There is really no reason to watch Season Two before Season One, and, in reality, due to the complexities built into the story, Season Two will not really make a whole lot of sense without having first watched Season One. Both seasons are out on Blu-Ray and DVD, so pick up Season One first, and work through those eight episodes, and then come to Season Two (ten episodes). If you have a Blu-Ray player and a HD television, you'll see Chicago glisten in many of the shots. It's really a unique city that is almost always overshadowed by its noisier competitors on both the east and west coasts (and due to the Midwesterner's subdued demeanor) but nevertheless holds its own special beauty.

Boss. It's engrossing, powerful, challenging. It's unusual. It's educating, in some strange way. It sports a superb cast, excellent production values, and doesn't insult the viewer by dumbing anything down. You'll be angry at the end of Season Two that a third season was not made, but don't let that deter you. There's really no way to rate this show as anything less than five stars.

See also:
Boss: Season One [Blu-ray]
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