In keeping with my long history of being the last person to ever catch onto the various waves of popular culture on TV, I humbly submit another overlooked gem that I've discovered in its unfashionable second run (i.e. DVD). It's Showtime's "Brotherhood"- a show commonly referred to as bargain basement "Sopranos" since it deals with a Northeastern family (Rhode Island, not Jersey) struggling against their complicity with the fringes of the mafia in similar ways to Tony Soprano and his multi-layered six season run. The big difference with "Brotherhood", though, is its attention to the moral gray areas that accompany the Caffee family since one brother, Tommy (Jason Clarke) is deeply rooted as a local politician while the other, Michael (Jason Isaacs) returns home the prodigal son after seven years and immediately resumes his conquest to create a criminal organization. Dividing its time between bustin' heads on the streets and filibusters deep within the halls of civic duty, creator Blake Masters and main writer Henry Bromell (known for directing/writing the film "Panic" with William H. Macy) strike a hearty comparison that either trade isn't too far removed from the other. It's not a completely original idea, but "Brotherhood" creates a strong sense of knowledge about both worlds that seeps off the screen in fascinating textures.
It's probably inevitable that a series such as this (created after "The Sopranos" and by a rival network no less) would sustain middling excitement. Even going into the first episode, I wasn't optimistic that "Brotherhood" would grasp my attention. But, comparisons to "The Wire" in how the show succinctly presents intelligent glances into city government without losing touch with the more human elements (namely Tommy's family and complex wife, played by the beautiful Annabeth Gish) ultimately coaxed me to give the series a shot. I'm certainly glad I did. This isn't "The Sopranos", but there's always room for different interpretations to a similar story, and "Brotherhood" excels at creating the same type of immersion into a culture (this time Irish Catholic dominated Providence, Rhode Island) that David Chase managed with his earlier trendsetter. More low key but no less ambitious, "Brotherhood" tangles with the Biblical- titling its episodes after Bible verses- and sheds equal screentime on so many tangents of this family and their chosen paths (good or bad) that it reaches a sublime mixture of personal and educational. Just as focused and intelligent as Tommy is on his own personal movement within local and state government, writer Blake Masters rounds out his gangster brother, Michael, with just as much intelligence and dedication in his own pursuit of incorporating the less-than-honest denizens of the neighborhood. Needless to say, the show is gearing up for a Cain and Abel like explosion that will pit brother against brother. I'll be watching. And I hope more converts join the ranks.