'Boardwalk Empire' HBO's newest gem
September 20th, 2010
12:53 PM ET

'Boardwalk Empire' HBO's newest gem

As a big fan of Hollywood's mafia stories, I've been in "mob withdrawal" for the past few years. The box office hasn't offered much since the release of "The Departed" in 2006, and television hasn't fared much better since “The Sopranos" ended in 2007.

Sure, there are a few store-brand crime dramas like "Law & Order" and "CSI: Wherever” out there, but they just don't move me, you know?

So if you, too, have been aimlessly wandering the wilderness of the multiplex and feeling around in the darkness of nighttime television searching for that new organized-crime "something" to fill the void, ladies and gentlemen, the search is over. The TV gods have hereby granted us "Boardwalk Empire."

The hype has been building for months, and the previews all point to a groundbreaking alliance in storytelling. Terence Winter, the executive producer/writer of "The Sopranos," and Martin Scorsese - who directed "Goodfellas" and "The Departed," to name a few - have joined forces for this project, and the result is a period drama dripping in elaborate detail the likes of which television has not seen (AMC's "Mad Men" notwithstanding).

I realize the gravity of such a statement after one episode, but I'm perfectly fine with making it after what I've seen so far.

"Boardwalk Empire" is set in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1920. The show begins as prohibition takes effect, and the central figure, Enoch "Nucky" Thompson (played by Steve Buscemi) immediately seizes the opportunity for outlawed booze to become the stuff his dreams are made of.

As the treasurer of Atlantic City, Nucky’s a brash, smarmy, arrogant figure, and his grip on the boardwalk is plainly evident from the show's opening moments. He's also got a grip on Jimmy Darmody (played by Michael Pitt), a World War I vet who does Nucky's bidding (and a bit of his own) to ascend in his operation.

Darmody's character is an impulsive, "What'd you just say?" kind of character that I was drawn to immediately. I thought his scenes were extremely compelling, and I'm officially invested in how his plight shakes out.

While the outlook simply can't be good based on what we saw in last night's episode, his alignment with a young Al Capone (played by Stephen Graham) is the "belle" of "Boardwalk Empire's" "ball.” The pair floated across sharp, clever dialogue with skillful ease, and I was very impressed with the delivery of the big lines and the minor details.

By the way, this pair's alignment is no accident. Capone comes courtesy of a visit from Chicago gangster Johnny Torrio, and shows up as Torrio's understudy. Meanwhile, America's biggest gangster, Arnold Rothstein (accompanied by Lucky Luciano), proves to be a thorn in Nucky's side from the moment he set foot on the "Boardwalk."

Nucky begins as a gracious host, but the new business relationship is icy at best. With that said, let's call Darmody and Capone's heist the proverbial iceberg that may sink a ship just setting sail. With each of these characters being set up quite nicely, I can't wait to see exactly how cold the situation gets.

I thought the first half of the show served as a thunderous "OK, here's who these people are, and here's why you need to care about them" segment, while the second half was chock full of gunfire and conflict. I also took notice of Michael Shannon's admirable performance as Agent Nelson Van Alden, and Kelly McDonald's portrayal of Margaret Schroeder was also noteworthy.

For a show premiere, the stakes were high, but “Boardwalk Empire” delivered emphatically. It’s always a good sign when the status updates of your friends on Facebook are aflutter with praise for HBO's newest gem.

The show seems to scream louder than the actual roar of the twenties with even the most minute details accentuated. The sets and scenery oozed period authenticity, and the empire feels colossal. From the Victor Victrola-like sound of the music punctuating every scene to the iconic billboards lining the boardwalk, it looked and felt like the dawn of a new era.

By the end of the premiere, I was satisfied and intrigued. The previews for next week's episode appear to be hot - somewhere in the temp range of "surface of the sun" - and it's official: I am SO in.

Loved, kinda liked, or hated the premiere of HBO's new series? Let us know.

soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. BN


    November 14, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. immels-online

    Buen comienzo

    September 28, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Charlie Jay

    Liked it a lot and we'll see where it goes, but c'mon now...it's no Goodfellas.

    September 20, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Garbo

    Loved It! I really appreciated the back-to-back encores. Three time in a row... gotta love HBO!!!

    September 20, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Carolyn

    Sooo hooked!!!!! do we really have to wait another week?
    It was a hot show!

    September 20, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. eojk

    I kind of don't agree. I thought the characters were boring particularly Nuck. I thought the first scene and the last twenty minutes were interesting but other than that was somewhat dissappointed given the hype.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  7. JMS

    Watched the show and thought it was great!!!! Can't wait until next Sunday...it has a liitle bit of something for everyone.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Grogin

    I would have to agree with everyone here, it was very well done!

    September 20, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. yoshua1977

    Had something from every gangster movie I've ever seen, which made me love every bit of it! WELL DONE!

    September 20, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Fanatic

    Well done,loved it. This is a big hit.

    September 20, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mod

    Midget boxing anyone? Must be a period thing. Love the way they freezed Capone responding to Darmody's question at the fights. I've seen that before, can't remember.

    September 20, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Sally

    I LOVED it! Coming from one of my favorite eras, I am excited to see more. Buscemi was a perfect choice to fit such a mighty role. It is about time. All intros were good, but I loved how Capone was introduced.: "Jimmy...Jimmy Darmody." "Al Capone." Awesome! Perfect.

    September 20, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Hook

    Done only as HBO does things, PERFECT! Sunday can't come soon enough. Steve Buscemi should get awards for his acting this time around.

    September 20, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Head Diva In Charge

    I thought this was an amazing show. This will only get better. I had to watch it a second time, and then it all made sense, and as soon as it clicked – watch out! This is the new HBO hit!

    September 20, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. tessa

    I loved the premiere episode of Boardwalk Empire. I simply did not want it to end. The costumes and setting...unbelievable. Perfect casting. I have always been a fan of Steve Buscemi and it's great to see him in a lead role instead of a wing man. Finally something to look forward to on Sunday nights. It is just perfect.

    September 20, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Wifey

    I absolutely loved this show! Your detailed review of it is accurate and I can't wait to see the next 4 episodes. I am already sad that it'll be such a short season.

    September 20, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Carrie

    It was recorded last night and on my list to watch this week , so excited!

    September 20, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Jill

    I thought it was great! I was worried because of all the hype, but it delivered.

    September 20, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  19. portalpunk

    havent seen an episode, but this cannot possibly be bad.

    September 20, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |

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