HBO’s newest brilliantly reviewed series is known simply as The Deuce. The hour-long drama from the creators of The Wire and Treme is an unflinching look at one of the United States’ most transformative and fascinating moments, that period of time when porn made the leap from dingy basements to main street cinemas. The grimy, but vibrant streets of 1970s Time’s Square are the backdrop for this gritty odyssey through a long-lost version of the US. If you were unfortunate enough to miss the first season of The Deuce, here are ten reasons you should stop what you’re doing and get to watching this magnificent new show.
1. A Unique Moment in American History
Though the stories unfolding onscreen are fictional, great pains have been taken to resurrect the real world of early porn in the 1970s. Originally illegal, loosening standards made room for budding entrepreneurs to slowly carve out a cottage industry that would eventually blossom into a billion-dollar phenomenon. This is the world where The Deuce kicks things off.
2. The Show Has Really Solid Breeding
If you knew nothing else about The Deuce, the names David Simon and George Pelecanos should be enough to merit your attention. The writers and producers of HBO’s iconic cop drama The Wire as well as the masterminds behind the lyrical New Orleans love note Treme, these creative partners have done more great work in the last fifteen years than most artists do in their entire careers. If you’re looking for a show that stares reality in the face and then helps you wash it down with a dose of humor and poignance, then look for something from David Simon and George Pelecanos.
3. James Franco Plays Twins (Freaking Twins!)
James Franco has long since made his name on his string of eclectic performances. He’s gone from street-level drug dealer to grill-wearing pseudo criminal to an everyman climber struck with terrible luck. Franco is weird, talented, and enthusiastic, and The Deuce brings all those talents to bear in full force. Franco plays twin brothers Vincent and Frankie Martino, larger-than-life characters based on brothers who actually inspired the show. Franco also directed two episodes of the series, as well, meaning that he actually spent time directing a scene in which he was playing two characters.
4. Maggie Gyllenhaal Is Awesome, As Usual
If there’s one character actor in Hollywood who can lend depth and spirit to a prostitute named Candy, it’s Maggie Gyllenhaal. The versatile actress has blazed a surprising trail through film and television since her breakout performance in 2002’s Secretary, but the role of Candy is something truly different for the Gyllenhaal, and she’s awesome in it.
5. It’s About Porn Without Being Misogynist
At first blush, it might seem a little bit insensitive talking about the earliest parts of the porn, considering the industry has a reputation for treating women roughly (to say the least). In the hands of David Simon, George Pelecanos, and Breaking Bad veteran and exec producer Michelle MacLaren, however, that exploitation does not go unnoticed. This isn’t some glamorized look at the swinging 70’s, it’s an insightful look at the people who occupied a very real part of New York history.
6. They Want to Tell a Complete Story
If you don’t go ahead and give in to watching The Deuce now, you’ll be stuck watching the tantalizing promos for the next two or three years. The series has already been picked up for another season, and you can bet that Simon and company will get their shot at their planned three-season arc.
7. Fans of ‘The Night Of’ Also Have a Reason to Show Up
If the rest of the creative talent assembled for The Deuce aren’t enough to whet your appetite, then just cast your thoughts back to last year’s mini-series The Night Of, a scintillating trip through the criminal justice system. Though Steven Zaillian got the lion’s share of the credit, The Night Of owes just as much of its success to series co-creator and writer Richard Price. Price was on hand to lend his considerable talent to The Deuce, having written half of the episodes of the first season.
8. It’s Not Shy About Delving Into Darkness
For all its outlandish, fiendish, likable characters, there are also moments of real-life horror and abuse on display in The Deuce. Several moments of the series can be difficult to watch. These moments are necessary for the narrative and handled with masterful restraint … but that actually serves to make a few of them even more haunting. In its quest to depict the era accurately, The Deuce has to tread down some pretty grungy paths, but the trip is worth the muck.
9. A Glimpse at the Birth of Modern-Day New York
The Time’s Square of modern New York would be something completely alien to the people who occupied it just 40 years ago. In its way, The Deuce is the beginning of that story. The first season of The Deuce covers the transition from Time Square’s prostitution hey day to the proliferation of semi-legitimate porn theaters about 18 months later. It’s the beginning of New York’s upward spiral, to a place where a four-story Olive Garden can thrive. At the end of season one, there’s a long way to go, but the first steps have been taken.
10. Critics Love It
If all the praise above hasn’t yet sold you on The Deuce, let’s have the professional critics weigh in. The series currently has a 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, an 86 percent on Metacritic, and an 8.3 out of 10 on the audience-scored IMDb.com. Entertainment Weekly gave it an A, calling The Deuce an absorbing, layered experience. The New Yorker called The Deuce “quietly transformative.” The Hollywood Reporter called it “substantive, provocative, and entertaining.” As a show, The Deuce is proving that it’s got everything a viewer could want.
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