Saturday, December 3, 2011



In my instantly seminal 10/21/11 piece entitled …AND MAYBE THEY COULD HAVE COME UP WITH A MORE ORIGINAL NAME, TOO, I was at best minimally charitable to the new Starz series, ostensibly about Chicago politics, entitled Boss and starring Kelsey Grammer. Indeed, about the only good things I could cite in that post were the performances of Mr. Grammer himself (spectacular and getting better…see below), the wonderful views and backdrops of the world’s most beautiful city that are prominent features of at least the show’s introductions, and a clever piece of cinematography in the first episode in a scene in which Mayor Tom Kane expostulates on the legacy of Mayor Tony Cermak. My main complaint about the series was, as I put it so eloquently then,

The most salient and overriding observation about “Boss” is that it is hopelessly and, more importantly, needlessly over the top. The annals of Chicago politics contain enough true stories that are entertaining, compelling, and thought provoking. We don’t need to make up silly stuff…

However, I also stated in that post

I will doubtless watch “Boss” again because it was entertaining, at least for an hour.

and I have done so. Yes, there is indeed plenty of silly stuff still going on in the show, the usual banality that permeates television drama and that could have been set anywhere in America. For example we are insulted by the idea that the Mayor’s daughter, who is both an Episcopal priest and recovering drug addict, decides to (once again) consummate her curious relationship with her drug dealing boyfriend at the precise moment the aforementioned boyfriend is under hot pursuit by the Chicago cops. Talk about wham, bam…Sorry about that. And we still are confronted with the preposterous notions that there is real opposition in the Chicago City Council and that we have an articulate mayor. On the other hand, I am pleased to report that mayoral aide Kittie O’Neil, who dresses and acts like the Admiral Theater would be an entirely more appropriate workplace venue than the Fifth Floor, has managed to refrain in the last few episodes from removing her clothing and going about her usual task of servicing one of the series’ other major characters. I realize that the last comment has sent probably half my readers racing to the “on demand” channel to view earlier episodes, and I digress anyway.

My major point is that, despite the aforementioned, the show has gotten much better over the last few episodes as the plot line has progressed to Mayor Kane’s culpability for a toxic dump in Bensenville and the ramifications that culpability is having for his political survival. Viewers are treated to scheming ward bosses, set-up ingénues, outclassed amateurs, venal and hypocritical journalists, mercenary spouses and other family members, ruthless political suzerains of various stripes…the type of stuff that makes you think, sometimes leaves you agape at the characters’ boldness rather than the scriptwriter’s silliness, and could have come right from the pages of my novels The Chairman and The Chairman’s Challenge. Indeed, many of Mayor Kane’s ruminations on his job could have come straight from the first chapter of The Chairman, the chapter that has been panned by some as being “too slow” while being effusively praised by those who watch the politics of our city closely as being right on the mark. Further, while Boss lacks the fidelity of my novels, it borders on the amazing how closely some of the scenes in the series, including the completely gratuitous scene in which we learn of a certain character’s proclivity for private female on female sexual performances, come right from the amazing annals of the politics of our town.

So my hat is off to the creators of Boss. The Chairman and The Chairman’s Challenge remain better, but Boss is quickly becoming a great series as it nears the end of its first season. I’m glad I didn’t give up on it.

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