HBO’s “The Deuce” a Compelling Story About NYC’s Seedy Side
HBO's synopsis of their show "The Deuce" doesn't pull any punches. "Trace the beginnings of the billion-dollar pornography industry from its start in 1970s Times Square, in the gritty drama from creators George Pelecanos and David Simon." That description is somewhat accurate for the series, however "The Deuce" is so much more.
It's about the people who find themselves working in and around the peep show district of 42nd Street in New York City in the 70's and 80's. It's about how that environment effects them, the choices they make, and their relationships with each other. It's not all about porn, prostitution, sex, vice, organized crime and violence. It's about the characters and how they found themselves in the Deuce and what they do when they find themselves there.
If the subject matter in the last two paragraphs aren't your cup of tea. Or your generally sensitive to these topics, "The Deuce" is probably not a show you'll want to watch. There are graphic scenes and at times it can be shocking, especially in the first couple of episodes when you're not expecting it.
After watching the first episode my wife and I felt a range of emotions. Shock from some of the graphic scenes. Intrigue as to what might happen next. And an admiration for the film makers who took us to early 70's New York City. At that point we weren't sold on the show, but we were intrigued enough to tune in again the next week. That's when the show really became interesting.
"The Deuce" is worth watching for the acting, writing, and filmmaking. Standout acting from James Franco,Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Margarita Levieva make it worth watching.
Gyllenhaal gives a great performance as Candy, a prostitute who knows she's destined for much bigger things.You can feel it from the first time she's on screen, and it's great to see her character grow. Franco and Levieva give excellent performances as Vincent and Abby and both excellently create a tension the viewer can feel as they try to navigate their open relationship in the season three premiere. Additionally, Franco also plays Vincent's twin, a degenerate gambler that Vincent tends to keep out of trouble. The nuances of playing two different, yet similar characters is wonderful to watch.
While we experience the Deuce primarily through Vincent, Candy, Abby, and Frankie. The rest of the cast is wonderful to watch. David Krumholtz's portrayal of porn film maker Harvey Wasserman is a very different character for Krumholtz. Chris Bauer's portrayal of Bobby, the Martinos' brother in law, and his descent into working in the Deuce is interesting. Additionally, the performances by the cast that portray pimps, prostitutes, porn actors, mobsters, protesters and neighborhood characters are all well done.
The show's writing gives the actors a lot to work with and provides compelling stories that makes the viewer care about the characters. Viewers get to know these characters. Viewers are given backstories and learn a bit about how each character winds up working and or living in the Deuce. It's easy to care about these people. That gives the show it's heart and really gives the actors some great material to bring to life.
Finally, the filmmaking is excellent. "The Deuce" takes us back to the 42nd Street peep show district. Season one of the series ends in 1972, season two picks up in 1977, and season three starts in 1985. The filmmakers need to portray New York City's grittiness in all three eras and do it wonderfully. The sets, effects, the neighborhood vibe. It's all depicted wonderfully. The show visually sucks the viewer in. The music excellently puts the viewer in the era and in many cases wonderfully sets the scene for what's coming next. It's well done, and like many HBO dramas, each episode seems more like a movie than a TV show.
"The Deuce" is a very well executed ensemble drama and for the reasons I talked about makes it worth checking out. If you haven't watched it, I think you'll find it worth your time.
I'm going to be sad at the end of this season when we say goodbye to Candy, Vincent and the rest of the inhabitants of HBO's "the Deuce". This third season is the last of the series. This season starts in 1985 and it's an appropriate era to say goodbye to these wonderful characters. Technology, the AIDS crisis, and New York City's desire to clean up 42nd Street are all things our friends on the show are going to have to navigate. And it's going to be interesting to see how they do that and who "wins" and who "loses."
New episodes of "the Deuce" air on HBO Monday Nights.