Kelsey Grammer in 'Boss' is TV's latest bad good guy

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Image Credit: Martin Schoeller/Starz

Put all thoughts of Frasier Crane out of your head. Kelsey Grammer’s latest character, the manipulative, seething Chicago mayor Tom Kane, is one nasty fellow. In the show’s premiere episode — which doesn’t air until next week, but can be watched online here — he proves to be ruthless, violent, and monomaniacal, a lot closer to Sideshow Bob than Crane. Personally, Grammer’s performance was arresting enough to draw me in, even as I was perturbed by the character, which sets him up as another possible entry in television’s growing gallery of nasty protagonists. I feel like at some point, main characters used to be lovable, or at the very least not downright evil, but increasingly shows seem comfortable placing them only a tiny hair to the left of the hero-villain line.

Personally, I’m all for it. Not that genuinely good people can’t make good TV, but when handled correctly, these deeply flawed individuals tend to be much more fascinating than the generic “cop with a past” or “dedicated doctor” tropes. The prime example is still Tony Soprano, who could switch between loving duck-gazing and remorseless garroting in a heartbeat, and yet there was something in his vicious charisma that kept you watching. The episode “College” is almost the perfect petri dish example of exactly how terrible and magnetic he could be at the same time. He really blazed the trail for a lot of the bad good guys that came after him, like The Shield‘s Vic Mackey, Breaking Bad‘s slowly descending Walter White, most of the characters on Sons of Anarchy, and even Dexter.

Obviously, shows with stand-up protagonists trading adorable banter still outnumber these by far, but it’s an interesting phenomenon. By the looks of Boss’ first episode, I doubt Kane will be getting much more endearing anytime soon, and it remains to be seen if Grammer and the writers will be able to walk the thin line between anti-hero and anti-audience. What do you think? Did you watch the first episode yet? How do you feel about these types of protagonists on television?

Read more:
Kelsey Grammer: ‘Real Housewives’ was a ‘parting gift’ for ex-wife Camille
‘Boss’ trailer: Kelsey Grammer rules the Chicago way
Kelsey Grammer talks running for office


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Comments (22 total) Add your comment
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  • Jessica

    I am so glad that you are back to talking about what a great actor Kelsey Grammar is and not his personal life.I cannot wait to see him do a drama and the previews look great.

    • jane

      thank you.

  • keb

    i would never watch Grammer again, what a creep

    • slizzard

      Dude, his sister was raped and murdered when he was in college, and he had substance abuse issues as a freakin child. Then he got fame and fortune. I’d be a monster.

  • JP

    I really enjoy these roles becsue they are much closer to reality than one may think. All the Polician and CEO are closer to that type, so why not portray them as they are.

  • VanderV

    This is an amazing show. I like it a lot, grammer was very good it in. It’s like fraiser never existed. If he keeps this up, an emmy nomination is certainly guaranteed.

  • Sweet potato

    I will be watching Boss because Starz puts out some quality original programming, despite my extreme dislike of Kelsey Grammer personally. I’m kinda glad he is playing a d-bag because I think I would have a hard time liking his character if he were a hero.

  • Missy

    He is probably playing someone closer to himself. Too bad his horrible behavior towards his children has already ruined what would have been a great show to watch. Sorry but personal behavior does count.

    • Anna

      absolutely agree:)

  • Anna

    NO MATTER what kelsey does in acting or whatever, he will always be a horrible human being. who is a disgusting ELDERLY man, who ruined a family and left his kids and wife for some bimbo who is probably with him for the money. lets be honest, why else would ANY woman be interested in him? he should just stop trying…

  • liam

    Couldn’t care less about an actors personal life. I just like good TV.

  • Byron

    This show reflects it’s eponymous title: Boss. And much to liam’s point, I could careless about his family as a viewer. Personal behavior only counts for people who need their stars to be on some weird, unrealistic personal level with them that doesn’t exist. The acting is brilliant, dense, the show is mature and sophisticated and the direction is marvelous. Keep the single-camera and the subtlety. This is a winner! Kudos Van Sant.

  • rgw5027

    Saw the first episode and it hooked me during the opening scene. Grammer is not, not, not Frasier Crane here. As you watched him, without saying a word, you knew what was going on in his mind as he listened to the doctor’s detailed diagnosis and pronouncements. A minor discrepancy (to make a theatrical point) in describing the warehouse locale as a former slaughterhouse. Meat hooks or no meat hooks, that was the old Pullman rail car factory on the far south side, not a stockyard facility.

  • james

    The show is based on Shakespeare’s King Lear…it’s gonna be dramatic…personally, I was enthralled. I grew up in Chicago w Mayor Daley..makes me think of him. City Council meeting looks true to life.

  • Bob

    They used the “F” word perhaps 20 times in the 1st 10 minutes. Even TV should be able to put out something better than this.

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