Starz’s new original series “Boss” already has a ton of weight on its shoulders. It’s a weight entirely put upon it by its own network, as many critics and entertainment writers out there are claiming that the seedy political drama is the most important original series in the premium channel’s history. “Boss” is the series that Starz hopes will thrust it into competition with the critical giants that air on HBO and Showtime.
Starz certainly chose the right star for the show in five-time Emmy and two-time Golden Globe winner Kelsey Grammer, but after viewing the pilot I’m not convinced that it has anything else going for it.
Grammer stars as Chicago mayor Tom Kane (in an obvious homage to Orson Welles’ seedy politician of his own in “Citizen Kane”) who as the pilot episode begins is being told that he has a rare degenerative neurological disorder that will slowly debilitate him (uh, “The West Wing” did that already with Martin Sheen’s President Bartlet).
One thing was certain from the pilot … you never saw this type of anger and darkness out of Frasier Crane. Despite mostly doing comedies over his career and spending two full decades as Frasier, Grammer doesn’t feel out of place in this dark drama that sees his character drag one character around rather violently by the ears and then disposes of another character’s ears down a garbage disposal.
Grammer’s Kane doesn’t appear to have an ounce of likability about him, which might turn off some viewers, but it stays in line with the many unlikable characters on both premium and cable networks.
In fact, there didn’t appear to be any likable characters in the show’s pilot. However, unlike Kane, none of the other unlikable characters seemed to be particularly interesting either.
The most uninteresting of these characters is probably Kane’s personal aide, Kitty O’Neill (Kathleen Robertson), who evidently is going to undergo a very torrid sexual storyline that honestly appears to be thrown into the series simply because all premium series these days are seemingly expected to throw in exploitation-like sex and violence. So, if you like Kathleen Robertson you’ll probably see her naked a lot on this show for no good reason.
Another uninteresting character is that of Kane’s estranged daughter, Emma (Hannah Ware), who is evidently a recovering drug addict and doesn’t really seem like an integral character in the series. Maybe the writers will give her a reason to exist though?
Then there is Kane’s wife, Meredith (Connie Nielsen), who literally appears in about a minute of the hour-long pilot even though she’s credited second in the opening credits. Certainly we’ll see more of her as the season goes along, but she and Kane don’t appear to be very loving at all.
Starz has so much faith in this show that they gave it a second season before the first even premiered over the weekend. It might perform well in the ratings, but I’m not so sure a great performance by Grammer, who I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if he received an Emmy nomination next year, is going to be enough to keep everything else afloat.
“Boss” airs locally on Conway Corp. Channel 371 on Fridays at 9 p.m.