Several months ago, Jeff was kind enough to lend me The Black Donnellys on DVD. I remember enjoying the first few episodes of the show before it was unceremoniously canned. According to Jeff, the later episodes of the first (read: only) season just kept getting better. This glowing review convinced me to take a second look at this short-lived show.
Within the first minutes my love of the show's extremely unreliable narrator, Joey Ice Cream, was born anew. He tells the story of the Donnelly brothers (Jimmy, Tommy, Kevin and Sean), four good, Catholic, Black Irish boys ... who happen to be mobsters. Well, kind of. Constrained by their circumstances (including their neighborhood, socioeconomic level, and tumultuous family history) the Donnellys have two choices - eat or be eaten. Tommy, protagonist and de facto leader of the family, has done everything he can to "get out." But his love for his brothers leads him down a dark path full of extortion, violence, and murder. Joey's narration is brilliant not only because he is a sidekick/accomplice; he is essentially an aspiring Donnelly. His point of view elevates the most morally ambiguous (at best) actions to the level of heroic feats. And because he loves the Donnellys, we learn to love them too.
For a while after cancellation, NBC made episodes available on their website - according to Wikipedia, it was the second-most streamed video (right after Heroes). Hmm... maybe a signal that the show deserved a second chance and a second season? Perhaps. Sadly, I only had time to watch the first six episodes before I could no longer conscience holding Jeff's DVDs hostage. Netflix to the rescue!