The Deuce – Season 1, Episode 1 — Pictured: James Franco. CR: Paul Schiraldi/HBODavid Simon’s The Wire has become legendary television, the Baltimore set series offering a humanistic portrayal of the gang members, drug addicts, cops and politicians that populate the streets and offices of that city’s shadier dealings. Here he brings the same format to early 70s New York, and predominately Times Square, where we meet bar managers working for the mob, sex workers entering the emerging porn industry, cops on the take, and violent drug dealers.
Twin brothers Frankie and Vinnie Martino (James Franco) work the bars of Times Square, where they’re slowly being drawn into money laundering operations by the mob. Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a sex worker who manages without a pimp, her entrepreneurial ways ignited by the possibilities of an emerging sex film industry. Larry Brown (Gbenga Akinnagbe) is a charismatic pimp whose suave exterior hides a dark soul. And Abby (Margarita Levieva), has just dropped out of college, her spirit care free and naïve.
Simon and his collaborators paint a wide canvas using these characters and more, recreating the trashy streets of New York, and filling them with everyday stories that showcase the changing times and social rules of American culture. Here we witness taboos being broken, as we also sense not only desperation, but also inspiration and innovation. This New York reminds of the film Taxi Driver, a city that comes alive at night, with the freaks and perverts coming out to play.
As in The Wire, Simon never judges their actions, he simply shows us their motivations, their helplessness, and occasional glimmers of hope. These are people just like anybody else, trying to make a buck in the face of hustlers, middle men, and the government.