From 2 of the minds behind The Wire, and Treme, David Simon and George Pelecanos, we get the story of New York City in the early 1970’s and the changes taking place in the sex industry. It’s first season just wrapped 8 episodes and stars James Franco (as twin brothers) and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
It is a quite broad concept, which is it’s biggest fault in my opinion. There is a lot of story here, with many characters and different storylines that are not even fully fleshed out by the end of the 8 episode run. We see various storylines focusing on the street workers (pimps and prostitutes), the police, the journalists, the gay community, and the mob. The focus shifts to moving the women off the street into brothels, as well as the birth of the porn industry. If we know anything from The Wire, it’s that given the chance, David Simon is definitely the person to be able to handle all these characters and storylines and make it pay off over a few seasons. Let’s just hope HBO gives him that chance (it has been renewed for a season 2), like they have in the past.
Method Man and Black Thought from The Roots give good performances as some of the pimps, as well as the standout performance, Gary Carr as C.C., who is mostly unknown stateside. David Krumholtz (almost unrecognizable due to weight gain) is good as a director teaching Maggie Gyllenhaal the ropes of the porn industry. Ralph Macchio even makes a cameo as a mob henchman. Other familiar faces are from previous Simon projects like Lawrence Gilliard Jr. and Chris Bauer of the Wire, who have great supporting roles. There are various other prostitute, cop, and mob roles all played well whose storylines may expand in future seasons. My least favorite characters sadly are the leads…
I’m not a huge fan of either Gyllenhaal or Franco (who actually directed 2 episodes) as actors, but the show is enjoyable and interesting despite them. The show is supposedly based on some real life characters and occurrences, and when mixed with historically accurate context such as the release of deep throat, the son of sam, and the stonewall riots, it makes for an engaging story. The direction by Michelle MacLaren (Breaking Bad, X-Files, Game of Thrones, Westworld, Walking Dead) of both the pilot and season finale help set the tone and time period really well, as does the costuming and soundtrack. Curtis Mayfield’s song in the opening credits really puts you in that era right away.
The Deuce has really captured the changing times of the 70’s in New York. The effects of race, sex, violence, and drugs will continue to be the focus of future seasons, similar to Baltimore being a character itself in The Wire. While The Deuce is no Wire yet, give it a shot. In time it will grow into another HBO classic.