Can one performance ruin a show?

03:16, Sep 17 2012

We are three episodes into the second season of Boss - the Kelsey Grammer-led political drama about a ruthless, corrupt Chicago mayor suffering from the advancement of a neurological disease and dealing with guilt after murdering his best friend and confidant, which is airing on SoHo (Saturdays, 8.30pm).

Grammer is predictably offering another masterclass in television acting, following on from his brilliant Season 1 performance by dominating every scene he features in and making his presence felt throughout. Such is the sheer charisma that he brings to the role, even when his sick mayor Tom Kane isn't on screen, you can't stop thinking about him. He pervades every other part of the story.

I know that isn't a huge revelation, given that Grammer plays the titular character on the show, but there probably isn't a more dominant leading man on television. It's easy to throw around the term "tour de force" in these hyperbolic times (and on this frequently hyperbolic blog*), but Grammer is a tour de force on Boss.

Yet, there is something truly baffling about Boss.

The show also boasts a pair of terrible co-starring performances - and I'm starting to wonder how much that affects my enjoyment of the show as a whole.

The supporting cast is pretty good. Connie Nielsen does a jarringly minimal job as Meredith, Tom's estranged wife; her delivery of a fairly simple line ("Did you do this to me?") in Saturday's episode was heartbreaking. Jeff Hephner and Kathleen Robertson do good work in small bursts of screen time. Sanaa Lathan and Jonathan Groff are great additions this season.


Then there's Hannah Ware and Troy Garity. I don't even know if they're actually bad, or if Grammer is so good that he's just making everyone else look bad, like Tiger Woods making every other golfer look pedestrian for a decade or so. You know, until he shagged all those women and stuff.

I think that might be the case with Garity. As the editor (formerly a reporter) on the trail of Kane's corruption, Garity is at the centre of the show's third storyline, and I wonder if his performance seems worse simply because Grammer dominates and makes me uninterested in what Garity's character is doing.

Ware, on the other hand, is terrible. She plays every scene as though she's been displaced from a Disney Channel telemovie in which she starred alongside some random washed-up 90s comedy star. The quality of her scenes is a noticeable drop from the quality of everything else happening on the show.

Furthermore, I think these performances are detracting from my enjoyment of the show as a whole; Boss deserves to be considered one of the best shows on television, yet I just can't bring myself to think of it in that way. Part of that probably owes to the abundance of quality drama around at the moment, but I think a large chunk of the blame lies with a pair of performances that take you out of the world the show is creating.

I can't think of any other show that I could say that about.

What do you think: can a bad performance or two ruin an entire show? What shows have you had problems with because of a single actor? And what do you think of Boss S2 so far?

(*) Seriously though, Two And A Half Men is the absolute worst comedy of the past 10 years.

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