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The Deuce: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray Review)

Set during the early 1970s in New York City’s Times Square, The Deuce, starring James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal, gives viewers an up-close look at the gritty world of sex and crime, as the porn industry begins its climb to legitimacy, cultural permanence, and billion-dollar profitability.  HBO has announced that it will release The Deuce: The Complete First Season on Blu-ray, available for purchase on February 13. Get your Valentine’s Day kicks by relieving or role-playing all the whore-sational hi-jinx this show has.  The release contains a digital copy of the whole season plus various extras that feature interviews with the cast and crew regarding the show and the period of history they are recreating. If you liked the show and are interesting in grabbing it or are curious but are certain to blind buy, please use the Amazon link below.

Season 

The Deuce tells the story of the legalization and ensuing rise of the porn industry in New York beginning in the 1970s. Themes explored include the violence of the drug epidemic and the resulting real estate booms and busts that coincided with the change. The show’s title is derived from the nickname for 42nd Street between Seventh Avenue and Eighth Avenue

The Deuce has a solid first season, but I was hoping for a little more. Though, in the final couple of episodes, the stage was starting to be set for what hopefully will line up more with my expectation. What we received wasn’t bad at all, but it seemed be drowned in an overabundance of repetitive characters and too many narratives, with some really not mattering much at all. But, the good surely outweighed the bad here in its inaugural season. I actually may have liked HBO’s first 1970s New York set series, Vinyl’s first season better, but I think The Deuce has a more open possibility to cover some more interesting ground to my personal interests.

42nd Street is filled with both recognizable and up and coming faces to round out the cast. Obviously the sell is James Franco playing a dual role of completely different brothers. The highlights from me came away from his storyline, though there is some intersect. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s story of going from street worker to becoming involved in porn film production was the one that peaked my interest the most and what 42nd Street lore that I hear about is to me. This is where I’m hoping the focus shifts a little more to next season. Another, maybe not so much storyline, but interesting character is the pimp “CC” played by Gary Carr. The guy is vile, ruthless and very intimidating every time he’s on screen, which is funny because he starts a bit charming. There are MANY pimps in this show, but his is clearly the best and one to keep around.

Its funny that HBO must have this desire to dip into the 1970s New York culture for a show. Just recently there was the high profile Martin Scorsese – Bobby Canavale-led Vinyl, about a record label during this time. That was canceled after one season and almost right away here comes The Deuce. Well, The Deuce must not be as expensive or super dependant on awards season, because its getting a second season. I would say, I’d like some more fictional history connections injected into The Deuce here in there. That could be pretty fun if done the right way. Especially if they are going to focus on the exploitation theaters at all.

I’m gonna keep with The Deuce in hopes that the first season was only set up for where the show is really wanting to focus. Cut down on the amount of characters, tighten its grip and really put some more focus on the film-going and dangers of the New York 42nd street strip. I love watching documentaries and reading about this time in history and I hope we can see more of those kind of stories come to life as this show goes on with each passing season.

Episodes

Pilot

Show and Prove

The Principal Is All

I See Money

What Kind of Bad?

Why Me?

Au Reservoir

My Name is Ruby

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: The Deuce sees a nice uptick in quality over its broadcast counterpart in the Blu-ray debut from HBO. You see a nice sharper, crisp picture with some solid improvement in the overall detail.

Depth:  There is a good sense of distance and free moving characters in the image.  It doesn’t usher in a fully 3 dimensional kind of look because that’s not the intention of the aesthetic.

Black Levels: Blacks are rich and carry a lot of grain in their appearance.  Detail is still visible on hair follicles, surfaces and clothing that are dark in nature.

Color Reproduction: Colors are very full and bold in this 1970s palette on display.  Browns and yellows come on strong.  More vibrant colors aren’t afraid to come through either, especially when Devon gets to wear stuff like that stunning red dress.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones go natural or kinda have a super 1970s tinge to them.  Facial details like stubble, scuffs, make-up and wrinkles all come through nicely.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese (Brazil)

Dynamics: The Deuce gets a solid representation of its first season through a nice balanced audio mix that blends the effects, music and vocals together in a natural blend. The constant humping sounds and loud bars sound really nice here as well as many of the quieter more intimate moments.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Music, engines, door’s slamming and more get a good bump from your subwoofer channel.

Surround Sound Presentation: There are good little ambient sounds place strategically among the 5 channels.  Every environment is a fully realized arena, ready to go.  Action, movements, loudness, distortion are all moved and shaken throughout your viewing area.

Dialogue Reproduction: Clear and crisp vocals that have good attention to diction.

Extras 

The Deuce: The Complete First Season is a 3-Blu-ray Disc set that comes with a digital copy of the full season.

Inside The Episode (HD) – Every episode comes with the option to get a brief little fluff that ranges from 1.5-2 minutes regarding little things about that particular story

Disc 1

Audio Commentary

  • Pilot – David Simon (Co-Creator/Executive Producer), George Pelecanos (Co-Creator/Executive Producer), Nina Kostroff Noble (Executive Producer), Michelle MacLaren (Director), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Actor/Producer) and James Franco (Actor/Executive Producer)

Disc 3

Audio Commentary

  • My Name Is Ruby – David Simon (Co-Creator/Executive Producer), George Pelecanos (Co-Creator/Executive Producer), Nina Kostroff Noble (Executive Producer), Michele MacLaren (Director), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Actor/Producer) and James Franco (Actor/Executive Producer)

The Wild West: New York in the Early ’70s (HD, 11:49) – Focuses on the frontier of the pornography business–New York City in the early 1970s–with the cast and crew of The Deuce. Creators David Simon and George Pelecanos plus James Franco and his co-stars open up about this unique period in NYC history as porn moved from the street to the mainstream screen. This is a light brush over the legendary 42nd street with the essential facts and how they pertain to the show. I’ve seen much deeper documentaries on this topic, so its hard for me to judge something that’s just under twelve minutes.

The Deuce in Focus (HD, 8:13) – Michelle MacLaren, James Franco and Roxann Dawson talk about bringing the show to life. Each are given a segment to talk about their episodes and their craft and how they boil it down to a scene.

Summary 

The Deuce, in its first season, has laid the groundwork to become one of HBO’s best. This Blu-ray release of it lets you relive all eight episodes in terrific quality. There are also a few groovy extras that really add some nice background on the show and the era itself. If you have HBO, I know you’ll always have access (Ideally) to these, but sometimes its just nice to have a set, too.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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