I’m sure none of you have heard of The Black Donnellys, and that’s a shame. Lasting only one season, Donnellys ended before it even really began. However, if you ever get the chance to watch the 13-episode series, I highly recommend it.
Written by Paul Haggis and Robert Moresco (Million Dollar Baby, Crash), Donnellys follows a group of four Irish-American brothers in the heart of New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen as they struggle to stay afloat inside the harsh world of organized crime. The brothers will do anything and everything to protect each other, and their mother, no matter the cost.
Oldest brother, Jimmy (aka Scotty Smalls from The Sandlot who is all grown up now!), is a troubled drug addict who desires to be the “leader” of the family, but his erratic behavior prevents him from being taken seriously by his brothers or those around him. He walks with a limp as a result of an accident that occurred when he was a child, in which a car hit him and crushed his leg before fleeing the scene.
Second oldest brother, Tommy, is the unofficial leader of the family even though Jimmy is the oldest. He is intelligent, level-headed, and meticulous with his actions. He feels the weight of his family’s problems on his shoulders and does whatever he can to solve them. He takes responsibility as the protector of everyone around him. Tommy is in love with Jenny Reilly, a childhood friend who runs her father’s diner down the street. He struggles between following his dreams of becoming an aspiring artist and running away with Jenny, and taking care of his family, a battle he often loses. Did I forget to mention that Jenny Reilly is played by Olivia Wilde? Because, yup, she is. Need I continue?
Kevin, the second youngest brother, adores his brothers and will do whatever they ask him to. He is an avid gambler and often gets himself into trouble with debt; however, no matter how many times he loses, he truly believes he is lucky and continues to gamble despite his debts.
Lastly, Sean, the youngest brother, is a ladies man who too will do anything for his brothers. He desires to be more included in the family “business,” but Jimmy, Tommy, and Kevin do their best to keep him separate from their crimes in order to preserve his innocence and prevent him from becoming like them.
The interaction between these four very different siblings creates drama that is easily identifiable, intense, and exciting to watch. The very first episode is one of my favorite pilots of all-time. Ending with an electric montage set to the lyrics of Snow Patrol’s “Open Your Eyes,” the show starts with a bang and begs you to stick around for more.
Upon the conclusion of the first season, the writers didn’t know that it would not be renewed for another. That being said, it does leave off with quite the cliffhanger. However, if you go into it with the mindset that you are not going to get a satisfying conclusion, then the show is definitely worth a watch. You won’t be disappointed that you watched it, you’ll just be disappointed that you’ll never get more.
The characters are great, the story is intense, and there’s only thirteen episodes. What more could you ask?
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