Dying politician's tilt at immortality


Boss season one (MA). Starring: Kelsey Grammer, Martin Donovan, Kathleen Robertson, Connie Nielsen, Hannah Ware. 8x60m episodes

If there's one thing to be grateful for in an era where television has surpassed cinema as the premier medium for premium dramatic content, it is that it should allow an actor like Grammer to prove his greatness once again.

He'll be forever identified with Dr Frasier Crane, the absurdly snobbish psychiatrist he played for 20 years on the American sitcoms Cheers and Frasier. The eponymous spin-off in particular was endlessly witty but also offered a touching (and only occasionally mawkish) portrayal of middle-aged men searching for authenticity in their familial and romantic relationships. Grammer's performance appealingly combined hamminess with gravitas.

This gravitas that expands into outright charisma in Boss, a 2011 series which is currently underway on Foxtel's W channel (Wednesdays, 8.30pm). Grammer won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Tom Kane, a fictional and ruthless mayor of Chicago, determined to leave his mark and cling to power, seemingly at any cost.

Grammer brings a captivating obstinacy but plenty of empathy too. Episode one opens with a lingering shot of Kane's creased and shadowed face as he receives the news, during a secret warehouse rendezvous with his physician, that he is suffering from a degenerative neurological disorder. Boss focuses on Kane as a man trying to exude invincibility in public for as long as possible, while privately he is forced to confront his own mortality.

The series deftly blends fact and fiction. Kane's ordeal takes place against the backdrop of the controversial O'Hare airport expansion, which in real life was slowed by a series of legal challenges and other complications. In the series, Kane has become the project's greatest champion; its achievement could constitute his own tilt at immortality, a notion that takes on greater urgency now that death is an imminent reality.

Grammer is supported by a solid cast, including Donovan and Robertson as Kane's closest advisors; Nielsen as his wife, in a marriage where political expediency has long supplanted warmth and affection; and Ware as their estranged daughter, a religious minister and wavering ex-addict.

But Boss is every inch Grammer's stomping ground. His charisma is weighted with a grave sense of pathos, but also a hint of the sinister villainy he honed while providing the voice of Sideshow Bob (children's entertainer, criminal, Republican) on The Simpsons, albeit here it is ramped up to brutal, tyrannical proportions.

That Kane can physically assault an unsuspecting minion during an expletives-ridden tirade, twisting his ear and forcing him to his knees as he roars down at him red-faced, yet still maintain the audience's sympathy and interest, is testament to the epic depths of a character that could eclipse even the great Frasier Crane.

Tim KroenertTim Kroenert is Assistant Editor of Eureka Street. 

Topic tags: Tim Kroenert, Kelsey Grammer, Boss



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Existing comments

Have been a fan of Frasier and Cheers in its new life of reruns on channel 11. Will investigate Boss, however there is a slight problem as I am not a subscriber to pay TV - I thought the advantage of pay TV was no ads, but I saw some recently while on holidays and there were ads a plenty = you can't win!

Jenny Esots | 19 July 2012  

I downloaded this series, Grammer was utterly brilliant and the series was awesome.

Marilyn | 20 July 2012  

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