I didn't think Kelsey Grammer could do it, but I have to hand it to him. In the new Starz drama series Boss, with his edgy, calibrated, scary performance as Tom Kane, the Machiavellian mayor of Chicago with a devastating secret, Grammer blots out any memories of Frasier Crane, as well as the taint of horrible divorce headlines detailing his real-life split from Beverly Hills Housewife Camille. That's no small thing, given the indelibility of both...
I can't quibble with any of the performances. In the series, which premieres Friday night at 10 ET on Starz, Martin Donovan beautifully underplays as Kane's right-hand man; Hannah Ware is poignant as the mayor's estranged and troubled daughter; and Connie Nielsen is beautifully brittle as Kane's distant but determined political wife. But therein lies the biggest problem: the predictability of the characters is dismaying.
Do we really need another drug-addicted child of a politician, no matter how well Ware plays the part?
Or an overly ambitious staffer (Kathleen Robertson, sporting horn rims that are as obtrusive as Maria Bello's hat in NBC's Prime Suspect) who is cold as ice, except when she's screwing someone she shouldn't be?
Or any number of corrupt officials who would put Mayor Daley to shame, including the gubernatorial candidate Kane is going to screw politically? It's not that these people aren't staples in the corridors of power, but couldn't any of them zig instead of zag?
Considering how beautifully the first episode begins, as Kane finds out he has a degenerative brain disease, the preachy, speechy same-old, same-old dialogue that follows this stunning reveal is irritating. There's nothing surprising about Boss, and for me to dedicate myself to any one-hour dramas, I need to be thrown off-balance every week.
Yet I can see why Starz already has picked up the show for a second season. There's something here, and maybe the cable execs are hoping what I am hoping -- that the creators work it out and make the drama, well, more dramatic. And less static.