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Showtime brought us three seasons of this strong television drama, featuring large weekly doses of Jason Isaacs! Find articles, reviews, and viewer comments about Brotherhood--and add your own!

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Gillian
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More Brotherhood buzz ...

Post by Gillian » Sun Jul 30, 2006 8:56 am

Strong start makes 'Brotherhood' a contender
Buffalo News
By JEFF SIMON

"Brotherhood" is better than "The Sopranos" these days - and not by a little either but a lot.

That's why I may have been the least surprised critic in the country when the Emmy Committee decided to ignore James Gandolfini and Edie Falco of "The Sopranos" for the show's last round (on the other hand, ignoring Hugh Laurie of "House" and Ian McShane of "Deadwood" for Best Actor were definitely bad ideas).

Whatever happens when "The Sopranos" threatens to limp to a conclusion in March, the last go-round of the show (you remember - Tony recovering from Uncle Junior's bullet, AJ recovering from being a spoiled brat, Carmela in Paris) simply wasn't very interesting, much less good. From episode to episode it struggled to arouse minimum attention.

Showtime's "Brotherhood" - which shares some behind the scenes folks with "The Sopranos" - came roaring out of the box and hasn't stopped. Even CBS noticed. They ran the pilot without the dirty words, sex and nudity.

What does "Brotherhood" - about Irish pols and the Irish mob in Providence, R.I. - have that "The Sopranos" doesn't? Try these:

1. A Desperate Housewife. Her name is Eileen. She's played by Annabeth Gish, an actress whose haunted eyes burn through your TV screen.

In the morning, she picks out her husband Tommy's (Jason Clarke) pants and ties, so he can make the best sartorial impression as an up and comer in the Rhode Island legislature. She gets the kids off to school and worries about whether the family can afford to rewire the house so that you can run the bedroom air conditioner and clothes dryer at the same time.

At night and on weekends, she goes to political dinners and picnics with her husband. She remembers everyone's names and keeps on smiling her bewitching smile when her husband and the pols adjourn to some back room somewhere to fix this or that civic problem and plot Tommy's ascendance from Providence's ragtag Hill District to be the next JFK.

During the day - and on free nights - she's having motel sex and smoking dope with an agreeable doofus she used to know in high school. Unless, of course, he's too guilt-wracked or in love with her or conscientious about being a postman to show up, in which case she finds his mail truck on the job and camps out next to him, hurling invective.

She is already, after about a month, more interesting than any female character "The Sopranos" ever had - including Carmela during her dark nights of the soul over Tony's profession.

2. An Intimate Connection Between the Pols and the Mob. They've been in bed together from the first episode - and not just Tommy's thug brother Michael (Jason Isaacs) who suddenly returned after seven years on the lam. They all need each other to get things done and keep the city running - to settle garbage strikes, award snow-plow contracts, keep the state from wrecking the neighborhood Tommy truly loves.

Tommy is a hypocrite and a hopelessly compromised man trying his damndest not to drift over into outright evil. (Nor does he know or suspect how shaky his marriage is.) Where "The Sopranos" has charmed us into complicity with this whacking or that, it hasn't given us much moral ambiguity since Carmela's torments and Tony whacking one of his favorites, Big Pussy Bompansiero. We are, as we watch, always at a comfortable distance these days from "The Sopranos" who always remain safely "them."

Not the Caffee brothers on Blake Masters' "Brotherhood." We are reminded at least five times an episode how a "them" is just an "us" seen from another part of the neighborhood.

"Brotherhood" certainly isn't the first show to start out so strong. The trick, as we all know, is to sustain it - as, somewhat miraculously, "The West Wing" managed to do.

In the meantime, while we await the show's inevitable fall, we can celebrate a TV show that is getting it right in big, big way.

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