Brotherhood was a Showtime TV series that ran for just three seasons. When Brotherhood began it was a summer series running from July into late September in 2006.
But for Brotherhood’s second season, Showtime moved the show to its Fall Schedule which was sort of a promotion for the show.
The show was about the mix of Irish gangsters, Italian mobsters, and the inner workings of the Rhode Island State government and the Providence city government. As IMDB described the show: Set in an Irish neighbourhood in Providence, the series reflects around two brothers on opposite sides of the law: one a gangster and the other a politician.
Now those might be called broad strokes, so to give you a better idea – think of Brother as being located somewhere at the nexus of where The Sopranos, The Wire, and the more recent Show Me a Hero might intersect.
The story begins and ends with two brothers: Michael Caffee, a hoodlum in the best sense of the word, and his younger brother Tommy Caffee, a rising star in the Rhode Island state government.
Michael is played by Jason Isaacs who we all hated in The Patriot. He played the murderous Colonel Tavington.
Tommy is played by Jason Clark (Zero Dark Thirty, The Great Gatsby, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes).
The key female roles are handled by Annabeth Gish as Tommy’s wife Eileen. Gish will soon be seen in the upcoming return of the X-Files to television. Fionnula Flanagan as the family matriarch Rose, Tina Benko as Kathy Parry who is Michael Caffee’s girlfriend, and Janel Moloney, a long time favorite from The West Wing where she played Donna Moss. Here she appears as a love interest for Tommy Caffee.
Pros: Very violent, explicit sex, and frank language make this show carry a label stating that it is intended for mature viewers. There’s nothing timid about this show – from the ‘full monties’, to the corruption implicit in every vote, contract, appointment, or bids for jobs made within Providence City Hall, or the in the corridors of power within the State Capitol Building – everything seemingly straddles the lines dividing good taste from bad taste. Only that the line is blurred most of the time.
Then there’s a good amount of sex and drugs, as well as infidelity in every home. Tie this to the two lead characters – the politician and the gangster, and every thing ratchets itself up exponentially. Neither Tommy nor Michael are inherently bad people – but their drives for money and power can be overpowering. Michael will break any law, criminal or otherwise, to accomplish his goals. Whereas Tommy will also cross the lines – but for him it is usually best described as bending the rules to accomplish his main goal which is to get his family out of the neighborhood called The Hill supposedly an Irish stronghold in central Providence.
Cons: The reality is that the Irish who originally populated The Hill in the 1840’s were overtaken . The neighborhood became Providence’s Little Italy with wave after wave of Italian immigrants arriving in the 1880’s. But that’s just stats and history.
The script has its strengths in the form of setting up the characters. But too many of them remain the same throughout. For example, there’s a character called Kevin ‘Moe’ Reilly. He’s played by Billy Smith. Now Moe was a goon as a well as a moron from Day One. And he remained the same throughout all 29 episodes. He might remind you of Joe Pesci‘s Nicky Santoro from Casino – but that will only stretch just so far. Moe had none of the charm that Nicky had. One has to wonder why this character didn’t end up in a body bag.
In another sense – many of the scenes were both repetitive and played for too long. Much of the time I had a strong sense of what was coming next. This was usually because the script didn’t trust the viewers to think about things and be able to foresee the inevitable. Rather it was because the script took great pains to make the obvious even more obvious.
Another thing was that they didn’t use much in the way of music to underscore what was happening on-screen, making much of the activity somewhat flat.
Summary: Despite having some serious flaws within the script, the direction, and the pacing – the show was able to grab all the attention I had. It was if you just couldn’t look away. Even when you knew what was coming, the actors were very compelling.
Michael Caffee will make you think that he is something of a cross between Sonny Corleone from The Godfather and Michael Imperioli‘s Christopher Moltisanti from The Sopranos. This Caffee was hotheaded, violent, paranoid, and selfish. Yet you can’t quite bring yourself to hate him. Tommy Caffee was smoother, and prettier, and clearly smarter than his older brother Michael. But despite submerging his Australian accent, Jason Clark wasn’t able to light a fire under this guy. He had steely reserve yet he often came off as passive. He is supposed to be the family’s Golden Boy, and in a sense he is.
Let me spend a brief moment discussing Annabeth Gish as Tommy’s wife Eileen. She brought three children into the world, and she was always noticed by all of Tommy’s political friends. But his time at the office was considerable, as were the dinners and the entertaining by lobbyists trying to curry favor. So Tommy didn’t pay enough attention to his wife. So she strayed into social drug usage and extra-curricular sex.
But she regained her senses and got her self on the right path. Her reward for being both brave and tough enough to overcome her problems? Her husband Tommy resented her for it.
So Brotherhood is a three season, 29 episode series, in which you will be hard-pressed to find a character to like. The demons that we call addictions – to sex, to drugs, and to power and money were so wide-spread that you couldn’t find a character that didn’t have at least one these demons creating interior havoc.
Now Rhode Island, the state of Rhode Island is our country’s smallest state. The WHOLE state is only about 40 miles by 60 miles. But the entire series was shot on location in Rhode Island. And while The Hill, at least the neighborhood that we saw in this series, isn’t anyone’s idea of ideal – the rest of the state that we saw was quite photogenic.
I will admit to having not seen or even heard of the series back in the day (2006-2008). I only just discovered it in the last 10 days. There are DVD’s available for all three seasons, and if you have an Amazon Prime account, you can stream the series into your home for free.
I will recommend the series, and I will call it both compelling and intense. Yes, it is true that it won’t stand up well if compared to The Wire, The Sopranos, or even Show Me Hero. But being a notch below those shows is certainly a sign of quality.
Here is an old promo trailer from Vimeo. Have a look –