19 May 2007 | dr_foreman
A strong drama series with fascinating social commentary
The setup of "Brotherhood" seems rather simple, but it works. The series is about two powerful and intelligent brothers, a gangster (Michael) and a politician (Tommy), who are always scheming to advance their respective agendas. Sometimes they work together, but more often they have serious personality clashes. In a nutshell, the series deals with the effects that their power games have on a lower-middle-class community in Providence, Rhode Island.
Part of me has a hard time believing the series' depiction of Providence as such a violent, chaotic town, but I suppose some suspension of disbelief is required for nearly all TV shows. But, for the most part, I find Brotherhood extremely realistic, especially in its depiction of the darker aspects of life - e.g. violence, domestic troubles, political backstabbing, and substance abuse.
A major theme of the series is that Providence is changing with the times. Michael in particular seems unable to accept that his old Irish neighborhood is becoming increasingly dominated by minorities, and that the family-owned businesses he loved as a kid are closing down and being replaced by corporations like Starbucks. I quite enjoyed the episodes which focused on this theme; the series, at times, is a pretty harsh condemnation of the corporatization of society and its effects on ordinary, working people in Michael's area.
Of course, the series isn't always so weighty, and it has other forms of appeal (namely sex, violence, and profanity, all of which feature in great abundance). If you're turned off by crassness and relentlessly vulgar people, "Brotherhood" probably isn't for you, though it does have some sensitive moments.
As much as I liked it, the first season did have a few weak points. Some of the political story-lines were repetitive, and occasionally I was put off by the dark tone. However, even during the weaker mid-season episodes, the actors consistently gave strong performances and held my attention. Jason Isaacs, who plays Michael, is incredibly charismatic, and manages to come across as both repugnant and sympathetic (a neat trick, huh?) The rest of the cast is great, too, but somehow Isaacs stands out.
The season ended on a pretty good cliffhanger, though I was left wanting a little more. I guess I'll just have to wait and see if season two gives me what I want. For now, though, I'm confident in asserting that "Brotherhood" is one of the best new TV shows in years, and I've been recommending it like crazy to my friends. It's addictive for all the right reasons.