If you’ve already watched the Best 25 Best Shows on Netflix, powered through the Next 25 Best TV Shows on Netflix, and got caught up on this week’s best new movies on Netflix, here’s a weekend binge-watching recommendation on Netflix: It’s called Boss, it’s intensely terrific, and appropriately for this weekend, it stars one of the actors from the X-Men franchise.
Boss is basically the Tommy Carcetti subplot in The Wire crossed with House of Cards, only its grimmer and darker than both series. It’s essentially Kelsey Grammer’s version of All the King’s Men using the Chicago political machine as the backdrop. Grammer plays Mayor Tom Kane, who not only controls Chicago, but the entire state of Illinois through insidious compromises, political corruption, graft, and even murder. As anti-heroes go, there’s nothing heroic about Mayor Tom Kane — he’s like the blisteringly angry version of Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, but unlike that movie, there’s no sympathetic protagonist. Kane is the protagonist, and he is a f**king awful person.
The catch is this: Kane is suffering from an incurable degenerative neurological disorder similar to both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s that will eventually cost him the very thing that got him to where he is: His intellect. He has three to five years left to live, and those years will be plagued by memory loss, the shakes, and hallucinations until he’s completely reduced to a vegetable. But Mayor Kane being the kind of guy he is, keeps his disorder secret and refuses to let go of his power.
In the midst of Kane’s attempts to keep a stranglehold on his power while dealing with a degenerative diseases, there’s also the matter of his family. He’s all but estranged from his frigid wife, Meredith (Connie Nielson), in a marriage of political convenience, and their do-gooder daughter, Emma (Hannah Ware) — also estranged — is battling a drug addiction and a fascination with a dealer.
There are also those within his own staff attempting to overthrow him, and over the course of two seasons, there’s a lot of political maneuvering, a lot of ruthless deals, and a lot of people thrown under the bus. But what’s interesting about Boss is that Mayor Tom Kane is a man the audience absolutely detests, and yet, there’s something about his struggle that we find ourselves rooting for. It doesn’t hurt that there’s no one else in this show that’s in any way likable or sympathetic, but it’s mostly in Grammer’s hypnotic performance.
Grammar is absolutely unholy in the role, easily the meatiest of his career. Within ten minutes, you will completely forget this is the same guy that played Frasier Crane for nearly two decades. He shreds apart every scene he’s in like a man hellbent on strangling the memory of Frasier Crane and replacing it with Stringer Bell playing Huey P. Long. It is a stunning and powerful performance, and Mayor Tom Kane proves to be one of the most evil sons of bitches I’ve ever seen on television.
It’s a goddamned beast of a show, and while its sleaze and salaciousness can often feel overcooked, it’s nevertheless immensely riveting. (Oh, and not for nothing, but there’s quite a bit of nudity, mostly involving Hannah Ware and former 90201’er Kathleen Robertson).