"The Deuce," the new HBO show from Baltimorean and "The Wire" creator David Simon, officially premiered Sunday (though it's been available for HBO Go to stream since August). Here's what critics are saying about the drama, which stars James Franco and chronicles the rise of the porn industry in 1970s New York.
The Baltimore Sun's TV critic David Zurawik says that it offers a "searing critique of capitalism" that's on par with "The Wire," while being rich with pop culture detail.
"'The Deuce'" is a series that at the very least will make Sunday nights a most entertaining place to be for HBO subscribers. But, in the bargain, it will also offer anyone willing to go on this journey with Simon and [co-creator George] Pelecanos a chance to understand in a visceral way some of the forces that have rigged the system in the favor of a few and ruthlessly exploited many others.
The Atlantic's Sophie Gilbert called it "magnificent television" and "the rightful heir to 'The Wire.'"
"It's in the scope of its story and the complexity of its characters that The Deuce (created by Simon and George Pelecanos) comes the closest to Simon's earlier masterpiece. It's about the sex trade, but also about the weirdness of human sexuality; there are Mafiosi gangsters, and corrupt cops, and selfish journalists, and new pornographers. The playing field is different but the game—and the rules—are the same."
James Poniewozik at The New York Times also highlights the show's capitalism critique, and praises the depth of its characters.
"'The Deuce'" is more than human interest. But it is human above all, and it's relentlessly interesting.
Todd VanDerWerff of Vox says "The Deuce" is "the best new show of the fall. And it's not even close."
"It's impeccably acted, written, and directed, and no matter how ridiculous 'a series about the 1970s porn industry with two James Francos' might sound to you, this is somehow not just the best possible execution of that idea, but the most thoughtful one, too. It's the best show of the fall, by a wide, wide margin."
Vulture's Matt Zoller Seitz points out the fact that a series about the exploitative nature sex industry is run by white men invites criticism.
"Despite the best efforts of the writing staff and [Maggie] Gyllenhaal (who became a producer on the series partly to make sure that her character was well served), there are moments when The Deuce seems to lose its grip on the leash of its worldview and the situations take on a hypnotic power that is presumably not meant to be exploitative but comes across that way anyhow."
Newsday's Verne Gay also highlights the graphic nature of some scenes, but says those are worth pushing past.
"Potential viewers take warning — there are some scenes here which will offend many and shock others. But get past those (if possible), and 'The Deuce' is largely excellent. The story lags, but the cast never does."
Sure, it may be seedy, but Alan Sepinwall of Uproxx says the show is surprisingly fun.
"Every character is given such a vivid inner life, and the show pulses with such energy, that it — like 'The Wire' (and, to a lesser degree, 'Tremé') before it — manages to get away with various indulgences that have dragged down too many other recent dramas that have aspired to follow in Simon's footsteps.
Richard Lawson at Vanity Fair calls it "the most amiably sleazy workplace drama you'll see this year."
"With its smattering of stock characters and tidy narrative arcs, 'The Deuce' is Simon's soapiest series to date. But that doesn't make it any less inquisitive or enriching. The show's survey of the sex trade—from the women working the street all the way to the mob guys pulling the strings at a distance—is transfixing, nourishing entertainment, a surprisingly good-hearted ensemble study that yields gentle, slow-burn rewards."