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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Deuce: NYC 1971 by way of The Wire

I thought, what's not to like about The Deuce, a new series,  now four episodes along, on HBO?  David Simon and George Pelecanos, best known for The Wire (unarguably one of the best series ever on television) are producers and writers, as is Richard Price (author of the superb Bronx novel, The Wanderers, as well as The Night Of, last year on HBO).  The Deuce even has two great actors from The Wire - Gbenga Akinnagbe and Lawrence Gilliard Jr. - and a riveting storyline about prostitutes and porn back in 1971, with lots of skin in the story.

So what's not to like about The Deuce?  Absolutely nothing - meaning, it's another example of outstanding and unique television, as only HBO and sometimes Showtime, have been able to deliver.  For HBO, The Deuce is very much in The Sopranos, The Wire, and Treme lineage -- meaning, memorable characters, searing narrative, served up with vivid color and style.

Richard Price and his way with words is in evidence all over.  Barely a conversation goes by without an apt phrase and a ringing line.  Simon and Pelecanos come across with their keen eye for detail, as a character mentions Penny Lane as a good song, and the songs playing the background are always bang-on right for the time.  I walked down or close to those New York streets, and nothing in The Deuce looked out of place.

And the characters and their vectors and actors are real and rewarding, too.   Gbenga Akinnagbe portrays a pimp with heart, Gary Carr with maybe a little less kindness but more than enough swagger to make up for it.  Maggie Gyllenhaal is just right as an older prostitute who wants to be in show business aka the porn industry; Margarita Levieva is very appealing as an NYU student who drops out (where I was student just a few years later - too bad I missed her) and into porn or prostitution or maybe not, it's still too to tell; and Emily Meade as the ingenue hooker under C. C.'s thumb (played by Gary Carr) and more, as they may be falling in love, or at least something, is just perfect.

Yeah, and I haven't even mentioned James Franco, who plays a bartender turned bar owner with a heart of gold - with money put up by the mob (with boss played by Michael Rispoli, who played nearly the same role years ago on The Sopranos, but doesn't look a day older) - as well as a gambler twin brother who's not quite as golden, with his typical sensitivity and splash.

The upshot: I'm looking forward to watching The Deuce for a long time.

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