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Loyalty, Brotherhood and Quality TV
on September 22, 2006
Showtime has been trying for years to brand itself as the new HBO, producing programming that it hopes will match the critical and popular success of its rival network (with "Sex and the City", "Sopranos", "Deadwood", "The Wire", "Six Feet Under" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" as a few examples).
To me, most of the shows have fallen short. I did think, however, "Sleeper Cell" was better than most people gave it credit for --and "Weeds" has developed into a tidy little comedy. So check them out, too.
"Brotherhood", in my opinion, is their crowning achievement so far. It is sophisticated, morally ambiguous entertainment. The set-up is not unfamiliar--the classic cops versus criminals in a distinctly Irish neighborhood. Good brother in politics versus bad brother in crime. But how good is the good brother? And how bad is the bad? This show is very much about the choices we make and the complications and compromises that can arise.
But it's even more about family, obligations and loyalty. You will see this family for every flaw (and there are so many), but there is also much to be respected. I don't like shows to spoon-feed me ideology and tell me what to think. I like that "Brotherhood" doesn't pass judgment, it respects its characters and each viewer will likely react differently to their goings-on.
Two particular stand-outs in the cast are Jason Isaacs and Annabeth Gish. I've liked these performers for a while, but neither has achieved major stardom. Isaacs is ostensibly the "bad" brother and he is, at once, chillingly cold and charming. And Gish, as the politician's wife, is so lost and hopeless in many regards--but also, strangely, the voice of reason in many circumstances.
"Brotherhood" is complex, you do have to pay attention. It's serious drama done for people who appreciate serious drama. And I do! KGHarris, 9/06.