HBO’s ‘The Deuce’ chronicles pornography’s rise in the ’70s

If you’re HBO, where do you go once you’ve played the sex-and-dragons card?

Straight into porn.

Premiering at 9 p.m. Sunday, “The Deuce” chronicles hard-core pornography’s crawl out of the backrooms of Times Square, long before the arrival of the Disney Store and the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

The dramatic series has everything you could want in a prestige project from the premium channel. It’s a period piece, kicking off in 1971, with a fantastic look. Maggie Gyllenhaal produces and co-stars as a prostitute looking to get off the streets. James Franco executive produces, directs a couple of episodes and plays twins. (Twins!) And it’s co-created by HBO’s poet laureate, David Simon, who, in addition to “Treme,” “Show Me a Hero,” “Generation Kill” and “The Corner,” brought you a little show called “The Wire.”

What’s that? You somehow still haven’t seen “The Wire”? Clear your schedule, watch it immediately, and come back to read this in 60 hours or so. Seriously, it’s that good.

Anyway, back to “The Deuce.”

Named for the local slang for 42nd Street, the series, like much of Simon’s work, focuses on a dozen or more colorful characters as they grind out an existence in a world most of us have never known.

Frankie Martino (Franco), has gambling debts all over the city. His brother, Vincent (Franco), is a barman with a flair for promotion. So when they can’t find Frankie, underlings of mafia captain Rudy Pipilo (Michael Rispoli) inform Vincent that he’s responsible for Frankie’s losses.

The longer the mobsters deal with Vincent, the more impressed they become, until Rudy gives Vincent a foreclosed gay bar to run in any way he sees fit. The rechristened Hi-Hat becomes a gathering place for pimps and their girls, making it a little like Cheers, except hardly anyone knows your real name.

Candy (Gyllenhaal), meanwhile, is an independent contractor, refusing to work for any of “The Deuce’s” multitude of vividly crafted pimps. When she’s asked to fill in for a friend during a scene in a porno, she becomes intrigued with the production side of the business.

Abby (Margarita Levieva), an NYU dropout, settles for a job waitressing at the Hi-Hat and immediately classes up the joint. When Vincent first starts luring big crowds by dressing the staff in leotards, Abby asks if he’s ever wondered what it’s like for the girls to be objectified like that. Vincent’s response: “Object-a-who?” Priceless.

And a David Simon series wouldn’t be complete without his twin passions: corruption and journalism. After a series of suspicious commands, beat cop Chris Alston (“The Wire” alum Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) begins questioning his superiors’ motives. This brings him in contact with a young reporter (Natalie Paul) working on an expose of the sex industry.

As in many of Simon’s projects, it takes a while for some of the characters to come into focus. But that’s largely because his shows feel less like television than huge, immersive novels.

Despite the fact that someone on “The Deuce” is almost always having sex or at the very least nude, none of it is sexy, and it isn’t intended to be. The sex almost always is a means to an end — a sad, depressing means to an uncertain end. “The Deuce” certainly isn’t a series for the prudish, as it contains more male frontal nudity than any series I can recall. And it’s presented in such a sad, depressing way, it will make you wonder why women put up with men when they aren’t being paid.

Thankfully, the drama, co-created with “The Wire” writer and producer George Pelecanos, retains Simon’s penchant for creating moments of beautiful absurdity.

One night, Chris and his partner round up a van full of hookers who don’t have papers proving they’ve been arrested in the past 48 hours, take them to jail, then collect their orders for Chinese takeout. Many of the girls are so familiar with the routine they don’t even need to look at the menu. Then they’re let out of their cells long enough to eat under the stars with the police — just a bunch of working stiffs passing the time together.

If it isn’t obvious, I look forward to a new David Simon series the way some people look forward to football season.

Every time out, he brings worlds into your living room that are so lifelike, you feel as though you could walk around in them. Assuming, of course, that your carpet has been Scotchgarded.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Gabi Coffee & Bakery Is Like A Korean Speakeasy From The 1920s
Gabi Coffee & Bakery Is Like A Korean Speakeasy From The 1920s (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Five must-see acts at the Electric Daisy Carnival 2018
Five must-see acts at the Electric Daisy Carnival 2018
The "13 Reasons Why" mustang cruises down the Las Vegas Strip (Courtesy Netflix)
4 fun and fascinating museums in Las Vegas
U2 in Vegas through the years
U2 in Vegas through the years
Dirt Dog In Las Vegas Makes Crazy L.A. Street Food
Dirt Dog In Las Vegas Makes Crazy L.A. Street Food (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
Black Tap In Las Vegas Makes This Instagram-ready Golden Knights Shake (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
Nevada Ballet Theatre Premieres Until December
‘Until December’ debuts at ‘Ballet & Broadway’ season finale (Carol Cling Las Vegas
Celebrate The Golden Knights With Knights-inpired Latte Art (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Yodeling Boy Mason Ramsey Signs With Atlantic Records, Debuts First Single
Yodeling Boy Mason Ramsey Signs With Atlantic Records, Debuts First Single Ramsey, who shot to fame after a viral video of him yodeling at an Illinois Walmart surfaced, just debuted “Famous.” “If I'm gonna be famous for somethin'/I wanna be famous for lovin' you/If I'm gonna be known around the world/I wanna because of you, girl” Mason Ramsey, “Famous” It’s been quite the rush to stardom for the 11-year-old, who appeared on The Ellen Show and performed at Coachella earlier this month. “I’d been to Nashville a few times before, but never thought something like this would happen. It’s a dream to sign with Atlantic and Big Loud.” Mason Ramsey “I loved recording ‘Famous’ and can’t wait for everyone to hear it.”
Steve Aoki, Pitbull And Other Stars Make An Apperance At The "Keep Memory Alive" Gala
Steve Aoki, Pitbull And Other Stars Make An Apperance At The "Keep Memory Alive" Gala. (Janna Karel Las Vegas review-Journal)
"Hamilton" Fans Line Up Overnight At Smith Center To Get Tickets
"Hamilton" fans line up overnight at Smith Center to get tickets. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 concerts to see in Las Vegas this week
You can visit the speakeasy in The Mob Museum's basement... if you know the password
6 new foods hitting movie theaters in 2018
Lip Smacking Foodie Tours takes you where the locals go
Donald Contursi talks about Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, which offers walking tours of restaurants on and off Las Vegas Boulevard with food samples and tidbits of history about the places they visit.
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Welcomes New Baby Girl!
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Welcomes New Baby Girl! The 45-year-old actor posted an adorable photo on Instagram, celebrating his newborn baby girl, Tiana Gia Johnson. Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram This is Johnson’s second daughter with his girlfriend, Lauren Hashian. His oldest daughter, Simone Garcia Johnson, came from his previous marriage. Johnson and Hashian first announced they were expecting another child back in January. Congratulations!!
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend Car Show celebrates 21st year
The Stray Cats, Jerry Lee Lewis, Duane Eddy, Elvira and Mitch Polzak make appearances the 21st Annual Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend car show at the Orleans hotel and casino on Saturday, April 21, 2018.
This "Alice in Wonderland" cocktail changes colors and flavors while you sip
Take a tour of The Underground at The Mob Museum
Prince death investigation coming to an end
Prosecutors in Minnesota plan an announcement Thursday on the two-year investigation into Prince's death from a drug overdose Prince was 57 when he was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park estate on April 21, 2016. An autopsy found he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl. Search warrants unsealed about a year after Prince died showed that authorities searched his home, cellphone records of associates and his email accounts to try to determine how he got the drug. The county attorney has scheduled a morning announcement at which time charges could be filed.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Big Bounce America visits North Las Vegas
Billing itself as "the biggest bounce house in the world," Big Bounce America visits Craig Ranch Regional Park in Las Vegas.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
Disneyland debuts new foods for Pixar Fest on Friday
Pixar Fest takes place ahead of California Adventure’s Pixar Pier expansion. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sneak Peek at New Decorations, Merch and Parade for Disneyland's Pixar Fest
Las Vegas Philharmonic celebrates 20th anniversary season
Orchestra’s 2018-19 season features premiere, more (Carol Cling/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Las Vegas' newest bar is a reggae lounge
Jammyland serves island-inspired cocktails. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 things connecting Las Vegas and Marilyn Monroe
1. Marilyn Monroe, known then as Norma Jeane, obtained her first divorce in Las Vegas at the age of 20 on September 13, 1946. 2. According to some biographers, Monroe lived at 604 S. 3rd Street for four months during the summer of 1946. The house has since been torn down and is now the site of a parking lot. 3. In 1954, Monroe almost married Joe DiMaggio in Las Vegas but the wedding was called off last minute. The wedding was to be held at the Hotel El Rancho Vegas which was located on the southwest corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. 4. Las Vegas has at least one road dedicated to the star. Marilyn Monroe Avenue is located in east Las Vegas and intersects with Betty Davis Street and Cary Grant Court. 5. There are currently more than 20 Marilyn Monroe impersonators for hire in the Las Vegas Valley.
This boozy milkshake is big enough to share with seven of your best friends
Fiddlestix makes an "8 Man Milkshake" that's packed with alcohol. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Events
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like