Now On Blu-ray: The Deuce: The Complete First Season

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The premiere season of the acclaimed HBO series The Deuce arrives on Blu-ray with all eight episodes and a number of special features distributed across three discs. While the series boasts star power in the form of James Franco (times two, actually, as he portrays twins) and Maggie Gyllenhaal, the only hook needed for a legion of TV fans are the names of its creators. Co-creator David Simon is the man behind HBO's The Wire and Treme. His partner George Pelecanos was a writer and producer of The Wire.

It stands to reason that The Deuce, set in New York City's seedy Times Square of 1971 (the title is a nickname for the location), shares much of the same vérité storytelling style and overall grittiness of The Wire. In fact, fans of either Treme or The Wire are the most naturally-acclimated demographic for the new show (Wire cast members pepper The Deuce's cast). As brothers Vincent and Frankie Martino, Franco works hard to distinguish the two as individuals. Perhaps due to some level of shortcoming in the writing (or maybe just a miscalculation on Franco's part), he doesn't succeed anywhere near the level of what Ewan McGregor did in the third season of Fargo (though to be fair, McGregor wasn't playing twins and was able to look significantly different as each character). The twins get deeper and deeper into Mob business as the Deuce's plot thickens.

Without getting into a sprawling plot recap—which would easily get confusing due to the sheer number of characters populating The Deuce—know that the show deals in porn and prostitution. Rampant seediness (and fairly explicit adult content throughout) dominates the show, so proceed with caution if you're squeamish about any of that stuff. Franco's Martino twins act as fronts for the Mafia, with Vinnie the ostensible "nice" guy who's experiencing marital difficulties (Zoe Kazan of The Big Sick is his estranged wife). Frankie is the degenerate gambler in debt to everyone (think De Niro's Johnny Boy from Mean Streets).

The show is stolen by Gyllenhaal's streetwalker-turned-porn actress Candy. Much of the award seasons attention The Deuce managed to drum up (it was, admittedly, fairly limited) was due to Gyllenhaal's portrayal. She snagged Best Actress nominations the Golden Globes and Satellite Awards. Beyond that the Writers Guild of America recognized the first season with a Best New Series nomination. The sprawling supporting cast of pimps, gangsters, and hookers collectively turns out quite an array of superb acting. Inter-character relationships are carefully-drawn and finely nuanced.

Special features found on HBO's Blu-ray edition: audio commentaries (by a variety of participants, including stars Franco and Gyllenhaal) on the season premiere and finale, "Inside the Episode" mini-featurettes for each of the eight episodes, and a pair of longer featurettes ("The Wild West: New York in the Early '70s," 12 minutes, and "The Deuce In Focus," eight minutes).


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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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