Grammer Impresses in Boss

By Michele Lenni in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 11, 2011 5:00PM

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Created by Apocolypto co-writer Farhad Safinia, and produced by and starring Kelsey Grammer of Frasier fame, Boss is perhaps the most ambitious project the Starz network produced to date. We can't help but see the resemblance between the Grammer's Tom Kane and a certain Elective Majesty, and the series draws inspiration from infamous Illinois scandals such as the Burr Oak Cemetery debacle.

The series centers around Grammer's forceful portrayal of Kane. It would be an understatement to say it's a striking contrast to the daft, loveable psychiatrist Frasier Crane Grammer cultivated in both the Cheers and Frasier sitcoms. Kane is an eloquently spoken politician to the outside world, but minces no words and forces his agendas with an iron clad fist behind closed doors with the help of his top aides Ezra Stone (Martin Donovan) and Kitty O'Neil (Kathleen Robertson).

All of Kane's power becomes a matter of great vulnerability with his super secret diagnosis of Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB), a degenerative brain disorder that will eventually leave Kane with no memory and no control over his motor functions. Not even Kane's wife Meredith (Connie Nielsen), a woman who is positioned as Chicago's First Lady as a matter of status and convenience, is aware of his ailment.

Seemingly the only person to notice the beginnings of Kane's mental decline is newspaper reporter Sam Miller (Troy Garity). Miller, a reporter a the fictional Chicago Sentinel, is also anxious to break the state's cemetery scandal, the questionable activity of 30th Ward power-hungry alderman Mata (Ricardo Gutierrez).

Kane also has an estranged daughter. Emma Kane (Hannah Ware) is a part-time pastor and drug counselor who also continues to battle the dragon herself and occasionally falters, doing large quantities of heroin with her on-again-off-again tattooed, drug-dealing lover Darius (Rotimi Akinosho). When Kane learns of his malady he attempts to reconnect with Emma, even going as far as making her second only to his doctor in knowing about his disease, which fails to create a bridge between the two characters. Emma holds far too much resentment from events yet to be revealed.

In attempting to assert his magnificent power and perhaps occupy himself in something other then self pity, Kane takes a prime and personal interest in the gubernatorial race, tapping Secretary of State, Ben Zajac (Jeff Hephner), as his hand-picked man to run the state. The fresh, young and attractive politician begins a torrid affair with Kane's top aide Kitty O'Neil. Though the addition of the affair seems a forced ploy within the script, it is of direct contrast to Zajac's opponent, Gov. McCall Cullen (Francis Guinan), whose homosexual affair scandal that has managed to make front-page news.

Are you confused yet? We thought you might be. The weakness of Boss is the myriad of swirling subplots that seem to detract from the series most interesting component: Grammer's earth-shaking depiction of Kane.

We here at Chicagoist have taken an interest in the intensely bleak and dark political drama. At times it reminds us of Season Three of the cable drama to end all cable dramas: The Wire. Watching Boss over the past three episodes we felt that a weekly recap would help us rein in confusion, better analyze the similarities to hometown politics and give our readers an honest and open forum to discuss the show.

In the coming weeks you can expect a recap each Monday. We love, love, love reader participation, so we greatly encourage you to voice your opinions about the story, characters and depiction of our beloved city.

You can see Boss Friday nights on Starz 9 p.m.