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The Black Irish Have Their Day

Watching the premiere of The Black Donnellys last night after Heroes, I thought it kept up that previous show’s energy pretty well. Its dark lighting and dank atmosphere provided a welcome temperance to “Heroes”’s frenetic switching between cotton candy colors and grey tones, and I remained engaged throughout the hour-long episode: no mean feat.

Having seen the previews in the weeks leading up to its premiere, I’d assumed the show was set in Boston. The accents were a bit muddled, but having been born in Queens, NY and moving recently to Massachusetts, I was pretty certain that, at least in my expert opinion, the show was set in Boston. This idea was bolstered when, within its first few minutes on the air, TBD showed the characters playing street hockey. Growing up, we played stickball.The gritty action and the fact that it involved Irish mobsters brought to mind the film The Boondock Saints, which was set in Boston.

I think the NYPD cruiser shown pulling up in front of the Donelleys’ bar was what really changed my mind.

Turns out the show is set in an area like NY’s Hell’s Kitchen circa the 70’s and 80’s which, come to think of it, was known in some circles for its hockey players.

That confusion aside (I never was very good with accents), I think the show’s got potential. Several times we saw main characters doing unbelievably stupid things – I’m talking spontaneous retaliatory murder, etc. – but in real life, when it’s hard to detach one’s self from the moment and see the big picture, people do stupid things. The characters remained, mostly, sympathetic ones for me throughout the episode.

The use of the outsider character, Joey Ice Cream, as the show’s narrator is a potentially compelling device.Joey is clearly a fast talker and a rat, a bad liar who has probably not been held in the Donelleys’ strictest confidence. He narrates from jail, his tale told to two police officers. There is the distinct possibility that the entire story, all that we’ve been led to believe about the Donelleys throughout the entire episode, has been one of Joey’s fabrications. I’d like to see if Joey continues to act as narrator throughout the series.

I was an unabashed Studio 60 fan, but I have to admit that The Black Donelleys is likely to make much better use of the 9 pm Heroes lead-in.

By Guest Blogger Liz McKeon