Kelsey Grammer’s “Boss” Helps Us Understand

“Boss” is about a legitimately crazy evil person who is mayor of Chicago. Kelsey Grammer plays Mayor Thomas Kane. He kills people over city contracts, shakes hands without washing after an open-door bathroom break, and suffers from some disease that blasts his mind with crippling dementia. He is freaking out and cracking up in front of people.

It’s great, and it brilliantly portrays an essential truth: Politics is all about sex.

You’ve always gotta nail the debate scenes in a political TV show. The most memorable single episode of “The West Wing” was the live (it really was live the first time it aired) debate between liberal Democratic presidential candidate Jimmy Smits and conservative Republican candidate Alan Alda. It was an amazing back-and-forth exchange of political ideas – free-market versus publicly financed solutions to major American problems – between great characters and great actors.

Check back with The Flip Side some time in the next month for a recap of that episode.

What was…? Oh. So, in “Boss,” this handsome soulless sex addict named Ben Zajac is running for governor of Illinois against Senator Catherine Walsh. They have a town-hall debate, negotiated between campaign managers. Zajac’s campaign manager is his wife; Walsh’s campaign manager is a former Kane staffer who had steamy sex with Zajac when the mayor was propping him up as a governor candidate. An abortion was soon necessary.

Zajac opens. Notice how he doesn’t really say anything, just like a certain every other politician you’ve ever seen lately: “Thank you. I am humbled by this opportunity to have this conversation with you all today, to hear your concerns and answer your questions. There’s no mediators. No pundits. Just you and me talk about our great state, and my vision for its future. A future filled with forward motion, progress, and hope. Not saddled with the failed politics of the past. And that’s what we’ll get if Sen. Walsh is elected. She will take us backwards. I’m not one to want to live for yesterday, and you’re not either. Let’s live for now, Illinois.”

The Walsh campaign manager who had Zajac’s abortion is sitting in the back row of the audience. “Now,” she says into a cellphone.

Zajac is answering a question about his family when members of the crowd all start looking at their own phones. They’re seeing a picture online of Zajac, who is white, having sex with a black woman. She’s enjoying herself. No butts get blurred. “Treasurer Zajac in Sex Scandal,” the headlines blare.

“I used to be that guy who didn’t want the noisy kids next to him on the airplane,” he says. “Well, now I got a couple of them. And while at times, uh, emotional and exhausting, uh… and of course expensive. I am grateful every single day that I get to be a husband and father.”

No one’s paying attention. They’re all looking at their phones and whispering to each other. The next question is for Zajac, from a big fat lady with curly red hair: “Mr. Zajac, who is the woman in the picture just posted by the Springfield Ledger?”

“I, uh, I’d rather not, uh, comment on an unconfirmed photograph, uh, this is not… my candidacy and we’re here to debate issues and -”

“Wait a minute!” the lady says. “Is this a picture of you and Alderman Ross’s wife?”

Mayor Kane is watching his candidate go down in sweaty flames, on the TV in his office. He is being taunted by the ghost of a man he had killed. Kane isn’t blinking. A top aid walks in right then and says “Sir, I, uh….”

“I can’t talk right now.”

“Joe Young is dead. Police found him in his truck, strangled, with a map of Chicago in his mouth.”

Boom! It gets even better from there.

This is a cool show, and Kelsey Grammer is amazing as a sad lunatic running Chicago. Grammer’s Wikipedia page includes this:

“Grammer’s personal life has been affected by several tragedies: in 1968, his estranged father, whom he had seen only twice since his parents’ divorce, was shot dead; in 1975, his younger sister, Karen, was abducted, raped and murdered by spree killer Freddie Glenn; in 1980, his twin half-brothers died in a scuba diving accident; and David Angell, close friend and producer of Frasier, died in the 9/11 attacks.”

Wow. Also:

– Began drinking when he was nine.

– Married four times and has five children and one grandchild.

– Daughter on an MTV show called “Awkward” and ex wife who was on the show “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”

– Sued the Internet Entertainment Group in 1998 over a sex tape he said the company stole.

– Waited 90 minutes for paramedics to arrive after suffering a heart attack in 2008.

– Endorsed Michelle Bachmann for the Republican nomination for president this year.

Now, that last one makes perfect sense given the character he plays so well on “Boss.” Remember this Newsweek cover?

Crazies stick together.

Can you believe what a life this man has had, though? All that tragedy and hardship has to be a big reason he’s such a talented actor.

One last thing: Did you see Jon Stewart’s “Moment of Zen” Thursday night? It’s a clip of Mitt Romney at some ceremony on March 17, 2005. He’s wearing a suit with a big green flower pinned to the lapel and he says into a microphone “One last thought, you guys. When I was a boy… when I was a boy I used to think that becoming rich and becoming famous would make me happy. Boy was I right!”

Watch “Boss” and you’ll understand better. This is all about power, and power is all about ego. And what is ego all about? Mitt Romney is a sex addict.


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