Boss

TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
Boss TV Poster Image
Dark, mature drama examines underside of city politics.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The overall message is that city politics is a dirty business that requires trade-offs, favors, and occasional violence to get important things done. There's also an emphasis on the corruption of power and the stark differences between a politician's public and private personas.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character is a powerful and assertive leader but has become estranged from his wife and daughter because of it. He also keeps dark secrets and regularly participates in back-door deals and other political trade-offs.

Violence

Some shouting, pushing, choking, but typically bloodless.

Sex

Simulated sex isn't constant but is rather graphic, including nipples and other bare sensitive parts.

Language

Unbleeped swearing includes "f--k," "s--t," etc.

Consumerism

Common usage of brand names like Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some social drinking, plus mentions of prescription drugs. One character has a problem with substance abuse.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this mature drama was intended for adults, with unbleeped cursing (including "f--k" and "s--t") and simulated sex that exposes some sensitive body parts. There's also an ongoing storyline involving a character with a substance abuse problem, along with bloodless violence like slapping, choking, and yelling. Brand names are mentioned on occasion, too.

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What's the story?

As the de facto BOSS of Chicago, Mayor Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer) has mastered the art of deceptive politics and become the most powerful man in the city, pushing his wife (Connie Nielsen) and daughter (Hannah Ware) away in the process. But when he receives an unexpected diagnosis of a degenerative brain disorder, the absolute power he once wielded threatens to erode if he can't keep his illness a secret.

Is it any good?

Boss isn't pretty, but it's certainly powerful, the kind of drama that's so grim, even the weather seems to play along. And in an age in which so many Americans seem let down by those elected to high places, the show's subject matter could really strike a nerve. Of course, if you're the type who prefers to believe that politics aren't actually this depressingly dirty, well, then this won't be the show for you.

As for Grammer, he slides into the role of a man who's accustomed to controlling his own fate (until fate steps in to take a swipe at his health) with impressive range and authority. He's the right man for the job, and his performance makes this dark and gritty world feel all the more dark and believable. But it might not be a world that everyone wants to visit -- or accept.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the show's portrayal of politics at a local level and whether the outlook is generally positive or negative. How accurately does the series reflect reality? Are politics always so "dirty," or can political power be used for good?

  • In spite of all the political scandals in the news, do you think politicians can be positive role models? How does the series' main character measure up? To what extent do you think public figures' personal lives differ from their public personas?

  • Discuss the show's main theme of power. Who seems to have it -- and what types of personal compromises seem necessary to get it? Who seems to lack it -- and what factors are keeping them from getting what they want? Can having so much power have a dark side?

TV details

For kids who love drama

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