The little Show that couldn’t: The Black Donnellys

Irish vs. Italians, Irish vs. Irish, modern day street gang fights… this show was just good old fun … while it lasted.

The Black Donnellys tells the story of the four Donnelly brothers: Jimmy, Tommy, Kevin and Sean as they try to survive on the streets of NY. Their late father Bobby Donnelly was a main player of an Irish organized crime syndicate. The brothers’ criminal heritage seems to run in their blood as they keep getting into trouble no matter how much they try to avoid it.

Jimmy is the older brother, however due to an accident in his early childhood that left him crippled he’s had a rough life and his temper usually gets the best of him. He gets into all sort of trouble leaving his brother Tommy (the smart one) to clean up his mess. Tommy is the 21st century Irish version of Michael Corleone, in love with the girl next door (Olivia Wilde), trying to live a straight life away from his family’s ‘connections’. Needless to say, he doesn’t succeed. And much like Michael Corleone’s dinner’s massacre, the events of the pilot drive Tommy to assassinate not one but two crime bosses: one Irish and one Italian. For the remaining episodes things only escalate until the four brothers are so entangled in the streak of crimes there is no way out for them. In a way the story shows us that at some point all crime bosses were just a group of kids meeting at a bar.

The show lasted for merely 13 episodes that are brilliantly crafted. Although, we never got to see a proper ending. The show has that weird balance between darkness, humor and heart that is hard to find. It was created by Paul Haggis who has won not one but two Oscars for his films Crash and Million Dollar Baby. If you would like to see a watered down version of his gritty writing style, The Black Donnellys is a must.

I think the timing of this show was spot on, with anti-hero shows like Dexter, Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy all debuting around that time. Sadly, the show suffered from being on the wrong network. It would have been much better served on a cable network like FX or perhaps Showtime.
The actors seem to be doing OK nowadays. Olivia Wilde of course went to do House and some other bigger and better things. You can catch Jonathan Tucker in Parenthood as the political candidate seducing young Amber and everybody [OK maybe not everybody] remember Kirk Acevedo as Charlie on Fringe. 

Of course Charlie died a couple seasons ago on Fringe, but we still have alt-Charlie, don’t we? Finally my favorite brother Kevin was played by Billy Lush who did an amazing job as an undercover cop on the short-lived series The Chicago Code (talk about being a show killer).

Where to Watch it? Thanks to the internet you can now see the entire season of The Black Donnelly’s on Netflix and Hulu Plus.

Is it worth it? If you enjoy the anti-hero story, it is definitely worth it.
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The TV Empress is a Media Management graduate, screenwriter in the making (and financial engineer in the meantime). She has serious plans to take over global television. You can follow the TVEmpress on twitter @TVRepublik

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