Dvd let­ter­box

This week

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Michael Bodey Twit­ter: @michael­bodey

SOME­THING strange is go­ing on with tele­vi­sion re­leases on DVD. Some dis­trib­u­tors are right on it, with home en­ter­tain­ment re­leases the day af­ter the TV broad­cast. Some, thank you ABC, even have lo­cal se­ries on sale be­fore their freeto-air run is com­plete. Then there are the US stu­dios that hold back se­ries from DVD re­lease for pe­ri­ods that defy logic.

Re­lease win­dows should be shrink­ing, par­tic­u­larly when il­le­gal down­load­ing is so per­va­sive. My neigh­bours played a too-loud ver­sion of The Wolf of Wall Street last week, more than a week be­fore its Aus­tralian re­lease. And yes, I can con­firm there are at least 400 pro­fan­i­ties. Par­don my whine but it is dif­fi­cult not to do so when the best home en­ter­tain­ment re­lease of the week — Blue Jas­mine ex­cepted — is a TV se­ries that aired early last year: Boss (MA15+, Fox, 584min, $39.99). Its sec­ond se­ries has al­ready aired in the US.

It stars Kelsey Gram­mer as a con­niv­ing Chicago politi­cian. Gram­mer, of course, was a star of Cheers and its ac­com­plished spin-off, Frasier. Cheers re­mains in the top ech­e­lon of Amer­i­can sit­coms, and that ech­e­lon is a small one in­hab­ited by Se­in­feld and The Simp­sons (I’ll de­fer judg­ment of All in the Fam­ily and The Mary Tyler Moore Show to my el­ders).

Yet the cast mem­bers of Cheers have all had vary­ing for­tunes since leav­ing the Bos­ton bar. Who would have an­tic­i­pated Gram­mer, who played the up­tight psy­chi­a­trist Frasier Crane, would be the most suc­cess­ful? Sure, Ted Dan­son has blos­somed lately in some solid TV, and Woody Har­rel­son gets it right spo­rad­i­cally but Shel­ley Long, Kirstie Al­ley, Ge­orge Wendt and John Ratzen­berger be­came rel­a­tive footnotes (not­with­stand­ing the lat­ter’s run as a good-luck charm in ev­ery Pixar film).

Gram­mer made some hor­ren­dous com­edy movies af­ter Frasier; his per­for­mance as the Chicago mayor Tom Kane is a re­demp­tion. This is a very strong, un­der­rated and im­per­fect drama that presents lo­cal pol­i­tics with most of its warts.

The open­ing episode — di­rected by Gus Van Sant, no less — is busy and chock-full of plot tan­gents and the big re­veal that the mayor has a med­i­cal dis­or­der that makes him a tick­ing time bomb. The se­ries, cre­ated by Farhad Safinia, is only cyn­i­cal within its char­ac­ters. Chicago pol­i­tics, the form­ing ground of Barack Obama, is no­to­ri­ously feisty. It pro­vides fer­tile ma­te­rial for TV drama. Safinia’s ma­jor achieve­ment is the dirt. Boss es­chews the ideal­ism of The West Wing, go­ing hard with some pre­scient Chicago plots and mix­ing it by pre­fer­ring to err, oc­ca­sion­ally, on the side of soap opera. More ob­vi­ously, Boss nods to The Wire, if any­thing.

The pol­i­tics al­ways feels real and Gram­mer sur­prises amid a com­pelling cast, in­clud­ing Con­nie Nielsen, Kath­leen Robert­son and Martin Dono­van. I loved Boss a long time ago on TV. The sec­ond se­ries, not the first, should be on DVD this week.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.