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The Black Donnellys: Mafia Lite

Written by: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer

Image So NBC has used every other second of their commercial time to promote their new “edgy” drama The Black Donnellys. (Seriously any other title would have been better) The series creators are the same guys that brought us Crash and Million Dollar Baby, which NBC is banking on.  The advertising is basically a billboard with, “Hey, these guys won Oscars… watch our show!”  Unfortunately, the pilot never really puts out quite like their previous projects did, which makes me feel that the Donnelly Brothers are a bit of a cock tease.


Riding the coattails of The Sopranos, the series deals with a motley crew of four Black-Irish brothers and their developing involvement with the organized crime scene in New York City.  We are quickly introduced to the pasty brothers, supporting cast and a handful of flat Irish stereotypes.  Come on, there’s a bar fight ten minutes into the show.  All that was missing was a leprechaun and a bowl of Lucky Charms.  

We quickly find out Kevin(Billy Lush), the brother that’s not as cute as he thinks he is, has a vicious gambling problem and accumulated anywhere from $3,000-$5,000 in debt.   After a failed attempt of making back the money by selling truly fugly stolen shirts, Kevin and bro Jimmy (Thomas Guiry) decide to kidnap local Italian mob boss’s nephew Louie “Downtown.”  Not the wisest of moves… but hey they were probably drunk when they did it… I mean, come on, they’re Irish.  In response to the kidnapping, the Italian mob henchmen take to beating up the youngest Donnelly, Sean, to settle the score.  Yes, I said settle the score, it’s THAT cliché.  

Then the Guinness really hits the fan.  Tommy, played by Jonathan Tucker, who could finish art school, get the girl, and live happily ever after if it weren’t for his lousy brothers, desperately works damage control of the situation.  But before he can work anything out, “I’m so angry” Jimmy goes ahead and kills Louie “Downtown” while high on heroin.  If I’ve learned anything… you do NOT mess with the mob. Especially if you’re an art major.  

Deciding that they’re all fucked (in the bad way) the brothers Donnelly go on an Italian mob killing spree to “take back the neighborhood.”  Note: this montage occurs while ironic Emo music plays in the background.  Just thought you should know.  Throw in some minor sub-plots that I don’t care about, the foundation of a Tony/Angela Who’s the Boss romance and that pretty much sums up the show.  Plus, Tommy Donnelly the new 20-something crime lord of the neighborhood, plays the part as believably as Ted Haggard plays the part of an ex-gay.  

The only good thing The Black Donnellys achieves is getting Studio 60 off the air for a while.  Ok, ok, maybe I’m being a little harsh… after all it’s only the pilot.  But now that the exposition is laid and characters introduced, it has about two more shows to go before I’m back to watching the Food Network or browsing the internet for porn.  Or save yourself the trouble and pop in Boondock Saints, The Godfather Collection, Sopranos box-set, Casino, Bronx Tale, Donnie Brasco, …………