Brotherhood: The Complete First Season

The DNA of Showtime’s gritty cable offering Brotherhood is obvious: one parent is The Sopranos, with its mob-derived drama and romanticising and vilifying of its top bosses; the other parent is Six Feet Under, with its conflicted and storied family histories. With uncles like The Shield and The Wire - intelligent, complex cop stories both - Brotherhood has a strong pedigree. This time, the good brother/bad brother tales take place in Providence, Rhode Island, a fascinating little enclave of a state so small you can drive across it in a pleasant afternoon. It’s the governmental domain of state representative Tommy Caffee; it’s also the criminal domain of his recently imprisoned, mob-connected brother Michael, who’s just returned to reclaim his old turf. Raise your hand if you guessed that politico Tommy turns out to be maybe less morally centred than even his so-called criminal sibling. In its early episodes, the Irish-mob focused Brotherhood does wear its influences and aspirations on its green sleeve a bit, but stay with it - it blossoms nicely about mid-season. It gets some strong supporting turns from Annabeth Gish (fresh from a The West Wing stint) as Tommy’s adulterous wife, and from Fionnula Flanagan as the boys’ mother (with whom bad boy Michael still lives, which nicely undercuts his tough guy swagger). Given its competition - both on DVD and for the loyal hearts and minds of a critical cable-weaned TV audience - Brotherhood is playing a solid, B-plus game. But given its A-list competition, it’s not quite at the level of appointment television. Extras include only a couple of commentaries, and an interactive link exploring various characters’ connections. (Showtime / Paramount)