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Before ‘House of Cards’ There Was ‘BOSS,’ Co-Starring Sanaa Lathan

Before 'House of Cards' There Was 'BOSS,' Co-Starring Sanaa Lathan

Unless you’ve been under a Mac truck, or are just wack (or only watch network TV),  then you’d know that season three of Netlfix’ standout series “House of Cards” made its debut this past Friday.

About the political maneuverings of now President Frank Underwood (formerly a Congressman, Underwood finangled himself into the vice-presidency during season one, then the top office at season two’s end), the Kevin Spacey starring “Cards” is the much ballyhooed political thriller that established Netflix’ original programming and ignited the viewing public’s need for instant gratification TV by having all 13 episodes immediately available. Other streaming networks, most notably Amazon’s, have followed suit with all their series after the grand success of Netflix’ model on all their original (“Orange is the New Black” and “Hemlock Grove,” to name a few) and licenced shows like “Peaky Blinders” and “The Fall” emblazoned with the company tag. Binge-watching became part of the national lexicon. 

But if you peruse Netflix’ other shows, not counting the original British version of “House of Cards,” you will find a similarly intriguing show we’ve slightly covered on S&A in the past., that precedes “Cards.”

For two seasons on the Starz Network, Kelsey Grammer starred as Tom Kane in “Boss.”  Kane is the ruthless Mayor of Chicago who is diagnosed Lewy Body Disease, a progressive degenerative mental condition that causes him dementia, hallucinations, and Parkinson’s-like tremors.  Yet Kane will not allow the disease he holds secret to hold him back as constantly fights to keep hold of his political power, and will sell out his loved ones, and have killed even those closest to him, to retain his foothold that extends to the whole of Illinois.  Grammer deservedly won the 2012 Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama, though the show would be canceled later that year because of low ratings.

Yet it is definitely worth a watch.  Season one boasted strong performances from Black talent: Rotimi (Akinosho) as kind-hearted drug dealer Darius, who becomes the lover of Kane’s daughter Emma (Hannah Ware) and back-end supplier of Kane’s secretive drug treatments; James Vincent Meredith as Alderman Ross, who serves on the City Council and is constantly looking to depose Kane; and the underrated Karen Aldridge who serves as Kane’s neurologist, and pays a high price for keeping his secrets.  Also familiar to our readers is actor Troy Garity, best known as the ‘wigger’ barber Isaac in “Barbershop” (2002),  as investigative reporter Sam Miller.

Season Two however ramped up the main cast with the addition of Sanaa Lathan

Lathan appears in the season opener as Alderman Ross’ erstwhile right-hand woman Mona Fredricks, quickly poached by Kane to be his new chief of staff. Increasingly fascinated by Fredricks, he turns around his ‘business as usual’ approaches  in response to her love for the community, using that to also punish his  enemies and as a way to get closer to her. You’ll have to see the rest of the show to see how that turns out.  Idealistic and resolute, Lathan as Fredericks provides an optimistic tone to City Hall and the show, but you also kind of want to see her be as nasty as the other characters, to have some more sand in her grit. But most of all, as she holds her own against Kane and Grammer, you’re just glad to see her on screen in something regular and of quality.

Come season two Rotimi also becomes a series regular, and rapper/actor Tip “T.I.” Harris recurs as his cousin Trey Rogers, a gang boss looking to enter into politics as a South Side Chicago ward boss.  The other recurring characters continue as well, with Phillip Edward Van Lear and Chris Boykin also regularly appearing. 

Mario Van Peebles directed five episodes of ”Boss,” including the stellar season one finale “Choose.”  The show is totally worth it, especially once you start experiencing Frank Underwood withdrawal.

Curtis Caesar John is a film programmer, exhibitor, and Film Editor for Bold As Love Magazine. He
also covers film and culture for Limité Magazine, and created the Shadow
And Act regular feature ‘This Week in Black
Television.’ He is born, raised and resides in Brooklyn, NY, of course.
Follow him on Twitter at
@MediaManWatch.

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