First and only on Showmax from today, The Deuce chronicles that moment in time when sex went from being a back-alley, brown-paper-bag commodity to a billion-dollar industry in America, thanks to both a liberalising revolution in American sexuality and new legal definitions of obscenity.
Beginning in 1971, the show follows a cast of New York barkeeps, prostitutes, pimps, police and nightlife denizens as they swirl through a world of sex, crime, high times and violence, as the porn business begins its climb from Mafia-backed massage parlors and film labs to legitimacy and cultural permanence.
The Deuce was created by George Pelecanos and David Simon, who previously collaborated on the HBO series The Wire, widely hailed as “the best TV show ever.” The Deuce premiered on HBO in September to similar acclaim as one of the best shows of 2017, with Time praising it as “a triumph, and, better yet, a pleasure” and The Guardian calling it “a dazzling achievement… Simon has created his most accessible work of humanism to date, and he’s done so without sacrificing his loftier ambitions of societal critique.”
With a 92% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.2/10 rating on MDB, HBO quickly announced they’d renewed the show for a second season.
The Deuce stars Oscar-nominees James Franco (127 Hours) and Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart). Franco plays identical twin brothers Vincent and Frankie Martino, while Gyllenhaal stars as self-made prostitute Candy, who refuses to work under any of the multitude of street pimps who control much of the trade along Eighth and Ninth Avenues.
The cast also includes The Blacklist star Margarita Levieva, and, of course, familiar faces from The Wire like Gbenga Akinnagbe, Lawrence Gilliard, Jr, and Chris Bauer.
“For America, flesh as a legal commodity begins in New York City, but it travels everywhere into the national life,” says Simon. “The fact is, we don’t sell a luxury car, blue jeans or bottle of beer anymore without a certain amount of pornographic thought attached.”
While The Deuce is structured as a fictional narrative, it’s based on research by producer Marc Henry Johnson, who chronicled the rise and fall of the sex industry through the lives of a pair of real-life twins who eventually became Mob fronts for the Gambino family in Midtown, rising to some prominence in their own right.
Those tales – provided by a brother who passed away a few brief months before The Deuce began filming its pilot – form one essential strand in the narrative, augmented by additional research and subsequent interviews with other surviving participants who consulted on the scripts.
“Times Square in the 1970s is now chiefly remembered as the ground zero of decadence and depravity, but what’s often left out of the picture is that, for many, it was a hotbed of experimentation, adventure and sexual liberation,” says Pelecanos.
Three other acclaimed novelists - Edgar Award winners Richard Price and Megan Abbott, and Edgar nominee Lisa Lutz - also write on The Deuce. Price was nominated for an Oscar for The Color of Money and an Emmy for this year’s five-time winner The Night Of (also on Showmax), and won a Writers Guild of America award for his work on The Wire.
Michelle MacLaren (Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones) directs the first and last episodes of the season, with star James Franco also directing two episodes, in addition to executive producing. “James directed two well-crafted episodes while simultaneously playing twin brothers – no small feat,” says fellow executive producer Nina K. Noble. “He took the concept of cloning one’s self to a whole new level.”
Longtime Simon, Pelecanos and Noble collaborators Ernest Dickerson (The Wire, The Walking Dead), Uta Briesewitz (Orange is the New Black, Jessica Jones), Alex Hall (Treme) and Roxann Dawson (House of Cards, The Good Wife) also direct episodes of The Deuce.
“Everyone involved with this project is genuinely grateful to HBO for the chance to take the narrative where it needs to go," says Simon. "We knew the theme and purpose of the story, but there are many people in the entertainment industry who might not have it told, or worse, would have told it for the wrong reasons. HBO is a serious outfit. And they don't scare.”
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