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David Simon, George Pelecanos
James Franco, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gbenga Akinnagbe
Writing Credits:

A look at life in New York City during the 1970s when porn and prostitution were rampant in Times Square.

Not Rated

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish DTS 2.0
French DTS 5.1
Castillian DTS 5.1
German DTS 5.1
Brazilian Portuguese
Supplements Subtitles:
Brazilian Portuguese

Runtime: 500 min.
Price: $49.98
Release Date: 2/13/18

• Audio Commentaries for 2 Episodes
• “Inside the Episode” Featurettes
• “The Deuce In Focus” Featurette
• “The Wild West” Featurette


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The Deuce: The Complete First Season [Blu-Ray] (2017)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 4, 2018)

For most New Yorkers under a certain age, Times Square has always been a clean, “Disneyfied” place with plenty of appeal for tourists. With HBO’s The Deuce, we get a look at the region’s seedier period.

This three-disc Blu-ray set includes all eight of Season One’s episodes. The plot synopses come from the disc menus.

Pilot: “Twin brothers Vincent (James Franco) and Frankie Martino (still James Franco) navigate the rough-and-tumble world of 1971 Times Square at the dawn of the modern pornography industry.”

With a first episode for any series, all I really want is a decent introduction to the relevant characters and circumstances, and “Pilot” does that. Some roles/threads seem more intriguing than others, but the show packages them together in a manner that makes me curious to see where the season will go.

Show and Prove: “Vincent is tempted by an offer from mob capo Rudy Pipilo (Michael Rispoli). Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal) gets a first-hand look at porno filmmaking.”

As expected, “Prove” moves along various character elements, with an emphasis on “X”-rated films. That side works fine, but Vincent’s career shift creates the most prominent potential development, and these elements lead along the season well.

The Principle Is All: “Vincent opens the Hi-Hat. Candy eyes an entrée into filmmaking.”

Given the star power of Franco and Gyllenhaal – and the synopses on these discs – one might expect Deuce to spend the majority of its time with their characters. That’s true to a degree, but this perception undercuts the amount of exposition for others.

The Franco/Gyllenhaal parts do show the most forward momentum, though, and become the most interesting plot elements to date. Other segments show promise but don’t get enough time to really develop,

I See Money: “Rudy dangles a lucrative offer in front of Vincent. Candy attracts unwanted attention.”

Though it moves along a mix of story/character issues, “Money” feels a bit stagnant – at least until its end, at which time we get a few significant developments. Still, “Money” comes across as less dynamic than usual.

What Kind of Bad?: “Bobby (Chris Bauer) tries to convince Vincent to accept Rudy’s latest offer. Candy considers a career change.”

On the surface, Candy’s move into a “real relationship” should seem compelling, but as developed to date, it feels fairly bland and cliché. I do like the thread with Darlene (Dominique Fishback), as her visit home goes off toward unexpected tangents.

Why Me?: “An end-of-the-year crackdown by police creates an opportunity for Vincent and Bobby.”

To date, the use of Franco as twins has come across mainly as a gimmick. That doesn’t change radically in “Why”, but at least Frankie gets more to do – though Franco plays the role in an awfully cartoony way. Candy’s move into films and Vincent’s new endeavor both bring dimensionality to the show as well.

Au Reservoir: “The Deuce’s pimps face obsolescence. Candy eyes a higher profile. Vincent confronts Abby’s past.”

On one hand, I like the fact that The Deuce doesn’t try to make the pimps likable, as they should come across as the cruel, nasty people they were. On the other hand, it can be tough to spend so much time with characters who remain so distasteful.

As noted by the synopsis, it looks like the pimps’ roles will become less prominent, and that’s fine with me. Deuce works best as it explores the changing environment, and “Reservoir” gives us a good progression in that regard.

My Name Is Ruby: “Vincent balks at getting in any deeper with Rudy. Candy sees the future of pornography.”

Season One concludes on a decent note, though not with a tremendous bang. Though “Ruby” brings a few fairly momentous events, it doesn’t seem like an especially impactful conclusion – and the last few minutes feel copped from the end of Boogie Nights. This leaves “Ruby” as an acceptable finale, but not one that adds a lot to our understanding of the characters or where they’ll go in Season Two.

The Discs Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

The Deuce appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The shows offered strong visuals.

Sharpness always seemed solid, as the episodes provided tight, concise imagery. Virtually no softness materialized during the programs.

The episodes lacked jaggies or shimmering, and edge haloes also remained absent. Print flaws never became a distraction.

Despite the period setting, Deuce went with a standard orange and teal palette. These choices lacked creativity but the Blu-rays reproduced the tones in an appropriate manner.

Blacks came across as dark and tight, while low-light shots demonstrated nice clarity and smoothness. At all times, the episodes boasted appealing picture quality.

Though not as impressive, the series’ DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio worked fine for the material. The episodes generally concentrated on dialogue and general street/bar atmosphere, so don’t expect a whole lot.

Still, the soundscapes boasted reasonable involvement and created a good impression of the various locations. A few louder scenes added some pep, though the overall scope remained environmental in general.

Audio quality seemed appealing, with dialogue that became concise and distinctive. Music worked well, as these elements showed nice range and punch.

As noted, effects didn’t show great involvement, but those parts of the mix satisfied, with information that appeared accurate and full. The shows didn’t bring us great audio, but they sounded good.

Two episodes come with audio commentaries:

“Pilot”: co-creator/executive producer David Simon, executive producer Nina Kostroff and actor Maggie Gyllenhaal.

“My Name Is Ruby”: co-creator/executive producer George Pelecanos, director Michelle MacLaren and actor James Franco.

Across these, we hear about story/character elements, sets, locations and recreating 1970s New York, cast and performances, period details, music, and the work of the directors.

In a superficial manner, the two tracks touch on the same subjects, but the “Pilot” track tends to be more nuts and bolts. “Ruby” appears less screen-specific, as the participants spend more time on directorial techniques and other background.

That makes “Ruby” the stronger chat of the two, as it gives us a nice mix of insights. “Pilot” starts well but fades as it goes, so it becomes the less successful commentary. Though both deserve a listen, “Ruby” fares better.

All eight shows bring Inside the Episode featurettes. These run a total of 14 minutes, 18 seconds and feature comments from Pelecanos, Gyllenhaal, Simon, MacLaren, director Roxann Dawson, story editors Megan Abbott and Lisa Lutz, and actors Gary Carr, Pernell Walker, Natalie Paul, Margarita Levieva, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., Chris Coy, Michael Rispoli, and Gbenga Akinnagbe.

The programs look at historical elements and recreating 1970s Times Square, cast, characters and performances. For other series, “Inside the Episode” tended to be general story synopses, but these work much better than that. Though they’re too short for real depth, they give us some good info.

Disc Three includes two more featurettes. The Wild West: New York in the Early ‘70s runs 11 minutes, 49 seconds and offers notes from Pelecanos, Gilliard, Simon, Rispoli, Coy, Franco, Carr, Abbott, Lutz, Gyllenhaal, and actors Dominique Fishback, Jaime Neumann, Emily Meade, and Natalie Paul.

“West” offers notes on the historical and sociological elements behind the series. It becomes a decent overview, though some of the material is redundant, as a few of the same snippets appear during the “Inside the Episode” reels.

Finally, we get the eight-minute, 13-second The Deuce In Focus. It delivers info from MacLaren, Dawson and Franco.

This allows three of the series’ six directors to present thoughts about how they approached the material. Like the other features, “Focus” brings out reasonable information but it doesn’t give us great depth.

A series with good promise, Season One of The Deuce mostly lives up to expectations. That said, I think it can be a bit scattershot and not as consistently involving as I might hope. The Blu-rays deliver excellent visuals with generally positive audio and a handful of supplements. While not a great collection of shows, S1 of The Deuce does enough to keep me invested.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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