October 31, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot in the spring and production of episodes for the regular season:  a writing/producing team is hired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover in the off-season) give plenty of notes, both helpful and otherwise, and critics begin to rear their ugly heads.  The results can include changes to tone, pace, casting and even story.  Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular episodes of this year’s new series as well.
Previously… on BOSS: The Mayor of Chicago, Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer) is a master manipulator with plenty of issues that need to be kept under control.  There are, of course, innumerable political controversies:  in the pilot, the Mayor’s long-planned expansion of O’Hare Airport was placed in jeopardy when workers preparing to exhume bodies on the property discovered Native-American artwork under the graves, and Kane was also propelling young politician Alex Zajac (Jeff Hephner) into the gubernatorial campaign against his frenemy the sitting Governor (Francis Guinan).  But Kane also has to deal with his icy wife Meredith (Connie Nielsen), his estranged daughter Emma (Hannah Ware) and reporter Sam Miller (Troy Garity), who’s determined to get some dirt on him–not to mention the fact, which he doesn’t know yet, that his trusted aide Kitty (Kathleen Robertson) is having a torrid affair with the married Zajac.  Worst by far, though, is the news he’s just gotten:  he suffers from a degenerative and incurable nerve disorder that will destroy his abilities and then kill him within 5 years.

Episode 2:  More of the same, written by series creator Farhad Safinia and directed by TV vet Jim McKay (who handles things somewhat less ostentatiously than pilot director Gus Van Sant).  The story picks up the confrontation between the Mayor and the legislature about the discoveries found beneath the airport cemetery and Kane’s attempt to link it with garbage pick-ups in the city.  (Kane prevails, but as one of the politicians notes, just the fact that he had to work so hard and still came close to losing is a sign of weakness.)  Kane also launches another manipulation of the gubernatorial race, leaking a video of Zajac that he knows the Governor will seize upon and attack, but which Zajac can actually explain to his own advantage.  (Zajac’s affair with Kitty continues as well.)

Meanwhile, we get more detail about the frosty relationship between Kane and Meredith, and confirmation that Emma, who works as a ghetto doctor and appears to be a nun or lay preacher, is an addict who, because of her addiction, was abandoned by her parents for political reasons.  Now Kane is reaching out to her, even as she’s lapsing back into bad habits.  Kane, for his part, is taking a variety of his own medications to control his symptoms, which are nevertheless starting to show in public.

All this is interesting, but no more so than it was in the pilot, and there’s little added to the mix.  The pace remains quite slow, and the show has yet to introduce any character who can serve as a real adversary to Kane.  There’s also no confidante:  the concept of the show is that Kane is essentially alone in the world, which means we continue to get a lot of Kelsey Grammer staring intently past the camera.

Boss is a high quality show, but its debut was fairly dismal in the ratings, and nothing in the second episode suggests any hook likely to bring in new viewers.  The series, which has already been renewed by Starz for a second season, is going to need something beyond Grammer brooding and disintegrating physically and mentally if it’s to find any kind of an audience.


PILOT + 1:   Still Good, But Not Essential

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."