by JACOB TRASK
Pornography is a sensitive subject, especially when it’s the driving topic of a film or a television show. Movies about porn are daring and risky. There’s nothing glamorous about the industry, and any film that portrays anything other than the grimy roots of young stars and the dark, dramatic situations that come with being in porn would just come off as corny and out of place.
HBO’s newest series The Deuce may just be the perfect example of how to make a show about the porn industry. The pilot episode of the series was released early on Aug. 25, and the show had its official release of the pilot on Sept. 11.
It’s directed by the powerhouse David Simon, who has an extremely strong lineup of television series under his belt, including Show Me A Hero, Treme and the all-time classic, The Wire. Simon has never produced a series with a rating under an 8.1/10 on IMDB, so it’s easy to trust that anything that he lays down is gonna be pretty great to pick up.
The Deuce stars James Franco, who plays twin brothers Vincent Martino and Frankie Martino. Vincent is a busy bartender with a troubled marriage, and Frankie is an irresponsible but confident gambler who gets into trouble with the mob. Vincent gets mistaken for Frankie because they look exactly alike, even down to their bushy mustaches and slicked back ‘70s haircuts. Franco leads the show, and Vincent is easily one of the most likable characters due to his seemingly good intentions and his average guy persona. His performance this season will be one to watch.
The show also stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, who plays Candy, a hard working prostitute who makes no joke of her business. She runs herself independently, with no management or protection from a pimp, which is unusual to the normal girls on the block. Candy finds herself each night under the dim yellow lights of a shady New York City street corner, surrounded by trashy looking women asking passersby if they’re “looking for a date.” We later get a deeper look at Candy’s personal life, and the dark reality that drives her persistence.
Franco and Gyllenhaal are accompanied by an interesting supporting cast that includes Margarita Lavieva, who plays an NYU student named Abby. It also includes Gary Carr as CC, a flashy pimp and his newest girl, Lori, played by Emily Meade.
The 87 minute pilot intertwines the daily lives of these individuals in the scummy, impoverished corners of 1971 New York City. There isn’t any hint of the porn industry coming into play in the first episode. We simply spend time with each of our characters, which doesn’t give us much for a plot, but it’s incredibly engaging, and we quickly get attached to characters like Vincent, Candy and Lori. The characters are well introduced and evenly developed throughout, which really kept my attention span.
Simon is taking an extremely interesting approach to putting the rise of porn on display, and it seems like it will be a slow burn. If Simon plans to show the complete rise of the porn industry, this could be a very interesting way to do so. He’s going straight to the roots, to the street corner where the prostitutes roamed and pimps finessed their way into a new industry, and from Simon’s story and character development on The Wire, it’s intriguing to think of where he could take this show. Cinematically, the show looks great. It’s simple, but heavy on the sultry vibes of dark New York City nights with crowded corners and interesting characters. Everything looks straight out of 1971, down to the sets, cars and extras. It’s executed very well, and looks like it could easily be a new HBO contender.
The pilot episode re-aired on Monday and episode two aired on September 17. Check it out if you have HBOGo or find a way if you don’t. It’s definitely worth the watch, even though porn is not the easiest thing to talk about. It may be premature after only one episode, but The Deuce could potentially turn into one of HBO’s best shows.
Jacob Track can be reached at Jacob.firstname.lastname@example.org