James Franco doubles up for ‘70s New York drama ‘The Deuce’

  • This image released by HBO shows James Franco portraying twins Vincent and Frankie Martino in, "The Deuce," a new HBO series about Times Square in the early 1970s. (HBO via AP)

Associated Press
Thursday, September 07, 2017

You don’t have to look far to find a New Yorker who beefs about what 42nd Street has become.

That stretch between Eighth Avenue and Broadway just off Times Square: It’s now a frothy family friendly cauldron of theaters, eateries and other tourist draws that many natives denounce as “Disneyfied.”

By any description, it’s a stunning transformation from the urban slag of peep shows, gin mills and massage parlors known as “the Deuce” back in 1971 – the time and place in which a magnificent new HBO drama series, The Deuce, is immersed. (Its eight-episode season premiering Sunday at 9 p.m)

For devotees of The Wire and Treme, nothing more need be said about The Deuce than it was co-created by David Simon and George Pelecanos, who can lay claim to those extraordinary dramas.

Pelecanos’ shorthand for his new series: “the rise and fall of Times Square.”

More specifically, this first season tracks the rise of the flesh trade from what was then called “smut” and what jokester Johnny Carson dubbed “strolling hostesses” to today’s billion-dollar industry whose wares are just a cellphone call away. From its first scenes, The Deuce gets under your skin.

As on The Wire (set in Baltimore) and Treme (New Orleans), this new series populates its chosen world with a rich spectrum of characters that range from pimps and prostitutes and drug dealers to mobsters and dirty cops and even a New York University dropout-turned-barmaid.