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Series / The Deuce

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Harvey: There's been a change in the law, about community standards.
Candy: What about community standards?
Harvey: Apparently, New York has none.

The Deuce is an HBO series which made its debut on September 10, 2017. It's the latest series by creator David Simon, he of The Wire and Treme fame.

In 1971, New York City's 42nd Street, nicknamed the "Deuce", was the cultural center of American grindhouse theaters, which spawned an entire subculture. Much like Simon's other dramas, the show has no one protagonist and follows various characters as they try to navigate the crime and grime of The Big Rotten Apple. The characters given the most focus are Vincent (James Franco) and Frankie Martino (James Franco), twin brothers and frontmen for The Mafia in Times Square; Eileen "Candy" Merrell (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a sex worker who is interested in making money in porn; and Larry Brown (Gbenga Akinnagbe), an intimidating but conflicted pimp.

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The Deuce contains examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: When Dave, Frankie, Black Frankie and Carlos rob a mob truck, they discover that it's full of shoes, all for the left foot only. Rudy realizes that complete pairs of shoes are getting shipped in separate trucks to discourage robbery. All of the robbers have a good laugh about it, in spite of coming up empty on the score.
  • Affably Evil: Rudy is always friendly and upbeat in spite of being a capo in the Gambino crime family.
  • The Alcoholic: Carlos, a mob associate, is noted to have been drunk while rival mobsters burned his parlor down. He's also drunk when working as a getaway driver. Dave takes his bottle of liquor away and shatters it.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • A tourist is killed and the cops get serious pressure to solve the case quickly. Then they find evidence that the man came to New York in order to abduct and most likely kill a prostitute. The political pressure evaporates, the case is put on the back burner and it never gets solved.
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    • The pimps tend to be violent and highly abusive. Thus no one really cares when one of them is killed.
  • Badass Bystander: Big Mike steps out from the crowd at the Hi-Hat to disarm an Irish gangster who is about to murder Vincent.
  • Bi the Way: An ambiguous case with Gene Goldman, who claims that he's not in the closet. He has a wife and kids but has one-night-stands exclusively with men.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: The general sleaziness of 1971 Time Square is captured in detail.
  • Blackface: The seventh episode features Garland Jeffries performing his cover of "96 Tears" in a blackface get-up. Vincent wonders why, and Abby answers that he's half-black, which only confuses Vincent more.
  • Brick Joke: In one scene, Frankie robs a truck containing only the left shoe of each pair. In a later scene, someone notices that he's wearing two left shoes.
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  • The Bus Came Back: Leon reappears toward the end of Season 2, having served his time for the murder of Reggie Love.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Frankie is a beneficiary of this because if Rudy has him killed, he most likely will also have to kill Vincent. Vincent makes a lot of money for Rudy and Rudy is not willing to give all that up just to get rid of Frankie. With Frankie being alive to keep screwing up, Vincent is continuously beholden to Rudy which gives Rudy much more street cred then if he had Frankie whacked.
  • Creator Thumbprint: Vince's place is called the Hi-Hat, which is the name used by Lester in The Wire when he calls Marlo's cellphone to verify the number.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Due to focusing on pornography, masturbation is frequently discussed and portrayed.
  • Dawn of an Era: It's the dawn of the Golden Age of Pornography.
  • Dirty Cop: The NYPD is so infested with corruption that even the honest cops are on the take just to avoid trouble. Cops openly discuss the "no-go zones" mandated by their corrupt superiors. In season 2, Chris is tasked with cleaning up the department.
  • Dissonant Serenity: After gunning down Reggie Love in his own diner, Leon calls the cops and calmly refills a cup of coffee for his patron.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Candy has a lot of trouble getting respect as a filmmaker because of her gender and the fact that she works in pornography. In season 2, she's irritated when she's banished from the room so that her male business partner can finish a conversation with their male financiers. In another scene, she's annoyed to be used as the butt of jokes on a talk show.
  • Dumb Crooks: Rodney manages to bungle every step of his pharmacy robbery.
  • Europeans Are Kinky: Discussed several times in passing, as laws about pornography are lax in Europe.
  • Fan Disservice: For a show primarily about the sex trade, there's a lot of gross sexual acts, nudity and fluids that you'd rather not see.
  • Faux Affably Evil: All of the pimps can be charming when they need to be, but they're really just misogynistic brutes. C.C. in particular seems like the most mellow and lenient of the pimps at first, until he gets upset and reveals his true colors as a stone-cold bastard.
  • Five-Token Band: The four cops we see the most of in the first half of the first season are a black cop, an Irish cop, an Italian cop and a Jewish cop, representing all four major ethnicities of New York City at the time.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Ne'er-do-well Frankie and entrepreneurial Vincent.
  • Foreshadowing: In the first episode, Leon warns a pimp to show respect for the ladies while they're in his diner. In the seventh episode, he reacts violently to another display of disrespect.
  • Gentle Giant: Big Mike is laid back and doesn't seem particularly interested in violence. He's introduced putting a man in a headlock rather than pummeling him, and he earns a job as Vincent's bouncer by jumping out from the crowd to disarm a gunman.
  • Greasy Spoon: A lot of the action takes place in Leon's, a local diner.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: All of the prostitutes are shown to be regular people, though Darlene and Candy have the most sympathetic characterizations.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Matthew Ianiello, Rudy's primary competition for control of the Deuce's entertainment industry, was a real mafioso who did control almost all of Times Square in the 1970s.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Larry tries to recruit a woman fresh off the bus in NYC, only to discover that she's already got an audition lined up to be in pornography. He vainly tells her that the pornographers will exploit her.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Several people tell Candy that she has the looks to be in movies, both mainstream and pornographic.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Sandra, who wants to do a story on prostitutes and quickly pivots into an expose on police corruption, though she's more interested in getting her story than the people she might harm along the way.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Harvey shows off a state-of-the-art VCR to another character who balks at the idea of paying $100 for a single cassette. Harvey counters that VCRs are the future.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: A gangster asks if they're on The Patty Duke Show upon seeing Vinnie and Frankie. Just like on that show, the twins are played by a single actor.
  • Lethally Stupid: Frankie is Too Dumb to Live and regularly puts himself in lethal danger through his gambling and by being willing to steal from his Mob employers. The only thing keeping him alive is the fact that Vincent is extremely well liked and is able to smooth things over with people Frankie has wronged. However, this just encourages Frankie to be even dumber and he does not seem to care how much danger he puts Vincent in.
  • The Mafia: The mob is still in the springtime of its hold on NYC, with the cops on the take, shaking down legit businesses and investing in the skin trade.
  • The Mole: Dave gets help robbing a private poker game from a transexual woman who works the coat closets and sneaks him guns past the security checkpoint.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: the fictional 14th Precinct appears to be an Expy of the real-life Midtown South Precinct, which covers 42nd Street.
  • N-Word Privileges: While the actual N-bomb is used very scarcely, the biggest example of the trope comes from Dave. During a robbery, he tells his fellow robbers to fetch "the faggot in the closet" who is secretly his lover.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Upon realizing that they have the free time to watch a movie, two pimps go to see Fantasia and talk about how they like the dancing animals.
  • Scary Black Man:
    • Big Mike, Vincent's first bouncer, is a towering street brawler.
    • The pimps make their living intimidating their prostitutes and anyone who interacts with them.
  • The '70s: The first season is set in 1971, and the second in 1977.
  • Sextra Credit: What Abby does with her teacher.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Skewed Priorities:
    • When threatening to execute a man in a bar's cellar, a mobster stops to move a case of booze so it won't get hit by the bullet and the man's brains.
    • Officer Haddix, who gripes about spilling his beer after exchanging gunfire with a pimp and getting hit in the shoulder.
  • Spotting the Thread: Chris realizes that Sandra isn't a real prostitute because her shoes are too expensive.
  • Straight Gay: Several characters are revealed to have homosexual relations while having no apparent gay mannerisms, including Gene Goldman and Dave.
  • Time Skip: The second season picks up a full six years after the first season, moving from 1971 to 1977.
  • You Have to Have Jews: For no particular reason other than to ensure that someone in the cast is overtly Jewish, one of Chris's colleagues on the beat is introduced talking about being a Jew and idolizing Mike "Superjew" Epstein.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Vincent leaves his wife after he catches her cheating on him with a low-level mobster and then humiliates him in front of everyone at the mobster's pool hall. However, others point out that he cheats on her as well.

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