Five reasons we love 'Boardwalk Empire'
September 27th, 2010
01:46 PM ET

Five reasons we love 'Boardwalk Empire'

It’s been an interesting week after the premiere of "Boardwalk Empire.”

With a cavalcade of new shows debuting like "The Event" (which is what, exactly?) and the rebirth of "Hawaii Five-O" (I distinctly remember asking the TV gods to bring back Jack Bauer, not Jack Lord), there's an army of us still wandering around trying to figure out what to watch this fall, and allegiances are being pledged left and right.

Well, the water cooler was certainly buzzing after Martin Scorsese's directorial effort in the "Boardwalk Empire" pilot, and word on the street sounds favorable from those who watched the show's debut. Judging from the response thus far, the crowd migrating to the show appears to be divided into three distinct groups:

First, there are the "’Sopranos' stalwarts" who had been faithfully waiting for something (anything) remotely resembling that "mafia family with the dysfunctional boss" storyline. They Googled "Terence Winter" and "gangsters" and thought the winning tree would bear fruit yet again.

Next, there are the "DVR/TiVo-types" who planned to give the show a try based on HBO's knack for making the mundane seem interesting. These folks believe the cable network that brought you "True Blood," "Big Love" and "Six Feet Under" could launch a hit show with great writing and clever production about the unique persona of paint, and how fascinating it would be to actually watch that paint "dry."

Finally, there are the "curious onlookers." Simply put, this is the TV junkie that sat down casually and said, "I've heard about this show, and I just wanna see what it’s about."

For each of these groups, “Boardwalk Empire” feels like the young phenomenon poised to become a star when it comes of age. Based on what I saw in last night's episode, here's a quick, handy guide of five reasons to fall in love with the “Empire”:

1. Enoch vs. "Nucky" Thompson

Steve Buscemi's effortless flavor of "smarmy" could be smeared on bread with a knife and enjoyed with a little peanut butter. His characterization of Atlantic City's treasurer is an interesting mash of the "poor-kid-who's-made-it-big" politician (Enoch) that dabbles in the seedy world of organized crime. Then, there's Nucky, the guy who sees the enormous profit in things people "can't have legally" as prohibition takes hold.

In the latest episode, we get a view of Nucky in his quiet moments as well as the ones in which he shouts loudly (and sometimes violently), and both are equally interesting and insightful. Buscemi dances between Nucky's worlds with grace and grit as each situation demands, and although he's a dark figure, Buscemi makes him shine – brightly.

2. The dawn of a new era

The show's space in time marks a crucial moment in the history of America. While prohibition is the main event, we get a glimpse of the twenties as a gilded age dotted with the ink of ruthless gangsters. We also get to see American ingenuity in things like Jimmy's "vacuum sweeper" gift to Angela after his big score. As the period was one of unprecedented invention and expansion, I'm sure we'll see more items we know and love that were the latest, greatest contraptions back in those days.

3. These aren't your dad's mobsters

“Boardwalk Empire” presents a fresh approach to the old stories about gangsters. Sure, we're familiar with the tales of Arnold Rothstein and Charlie "Lucky" Luciano. We've seen their mob fame and opulent lifestyles depicted a few times before, but the insight on their demeanor and meticulous methods of conducting business feels brand new in "Boardwalk's" context.

Viewers are also introduced to Al Capone as the understudy of Chicago mob boss, Johnny Torio. Historically, the Capone we've known was certainly a complex, violent figure, but “Boardwalk Empire” provides a fantastic look at the world BEFORE it was actually his. (With all this said, the show's writers had me at "Capone.")

4. Questions? Sure. Answers? Maybe.

So far, “Boardwalk Empire” has done a fantastic job of making the viewer ask relevant questions, while unearthing layers of the story to reveal "just enough."

We ask ourselves, "Why does Nucky care for Margaret Schroeder one way or the other? When will Jimmy's heist actually cause him real trouble? How far will Nucky push Arnold Rothstein? Why, exactly, was Big Jim Colosimo killed?" Then, we're spoon-fed some of the bites that will lead to the answer, but we don't get the full meal. The writers have done a nice job (so far) of alluding to things with clues as the plot moves on.

5. The drama

Two episodes into the show's young life, and I'm officially sold on the drama of it all. I enjoy the flow of the storytelling, and I think the show's got all the qualities of a hit series. The build-ups have all been solid, and I'm latching on to a few interesting figures (like Agent Van Alden) as we learn each character's value to the overarching theme. So far, the writing/editing has been clever, and I'm stoked for next week's episode after seeing the previews.

I think it’s still early, but "Boardwalk Empire" is on the right track. I enjoyed the latest episode, but I'm still in the discovery phase. For now, I'll enjoy the show for what it is. What do you think of the series so far?

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Filed under: Fall TV • television • TV recaps

soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. SKR

    I love this show
    Only 3 more to go.

    November 14, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ksf

    Margaret amazing again last night. She admitted she should not have listened to advice given. The chicken last week is still my favorite thing yet.

    November 1, 2010 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  3. Al Mustache

    Boardwalk is better than the Soprano's in the sense that we don't know a lot about Prohibition era and what went on.

    Interesting to see the time and money they spent on the sets

    BTW- I ran across a website that sells a CAPONE'S DELIVERY SERIVCE retro shirt and it looks like a lot of fun

    Can't wait for Sunday nite

    October 27, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bob Inalong

    Great show! "I'm going to name my baby after you Mr. Thompson." "Enoch? You couldn't possibly be that cruel."
    Did you notice the way the little person sneered at him as soon as he turned his back after their little "joke"?

    September 28, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jay Vee

    Watched episode 1 & 2 and it is all set design and wardrobe, the better part being the wardrobe. Get your "eyes" on and not your emotional need for a new Tony to (gulp!) love. So far it sucks, very very badly!!

    September 28, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. G T

    This is a voluptuous, beautiful production with splendid acting and GREAT characters. So far, I love Boardwalk Empire. And if you haven't read Nelson Johnson's book, you should. The HBO B E is fictionalized, but the book is historical and well-researched–and it reads like a novel. I have loved Atlantic City all my life, and the book and the show just add to my love of a resort that has had its ups and downs–but keeps its fans through all its phases.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Caliopie

    Being a 3rd generation of A.C., I was too looking forward to B.E. I have found some inaccurracies in the true Nucky, and also the scenic (Boardwalk, shops & Hotels), but also knowing that it is loosely based on fact, have truly enjoyed the ride. Hopefully they will take this all the way through it's true Hay Days of the 40's, 50's and early 60's!!! Would love the "5" and Skinny brought in down the line!

    September 28, 2010 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  8. synthiotics

    "Boardwalk Empire" is an excellent show, no question. But where was all the media buzz/love for "Deadwood" (distant cousin to "Boardwalk") and "The Wire"? The latter being one of the best television dramas ever broadcast.

    September 28, 2010 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  9. Kathy

    Thoroughly enjoying this show – especially the clothes and home furnishings – I'm often left wondering what Nucky is thinking and what his next moves are. What an exciting yet dangerous era it was. I turned Boardwalk on with nothing better to do and now I'm hooked – I guess folks really did 'sleep with the fishes' and introducing Al Capone was enticing for sure.

    September 28, 2010 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  10. Deb

    I loved the first two episodes. I think the characters are just great and can't wait to see where they all end up, especially Jimmy and Margaret. Bravo, Scorsese!

    September 28, 2010 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  11. charlie

    One name has me hooked: Kelly MacDonald!!!

    September 28, 2010 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  12. Keva

    I really really liked it. We've watched both episodes and love it. I think Steve Buscemi is doing a great job as Enooch/Nucky and I love the way the story flows. Nancy, you should give it another try – did you watch this week's episode?

    September 28, 2010 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  13. Boo

    Steve Buscemi has never failed me. He is always listed as the go-to character guy, but I love that someone looked past that to see how much more he could do, (even if he is spot-on as the funny, clever, intelligent or insane characters he's played). Would love to see him get the star credit he deserves for this...

    September 28, 2010 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  14. Nancy

    I was looking forward to this, there's a lack of intelligent drama on tv, but am SO disappointed, I find this to be the most boring thing I've ever watched, the characters are caricatures, the story is pedantic, I won't be watching again

    September 28, 2010 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  15. Ron C

    It is beautiful to watch-I am amazed a the detail on what Atlantic City looked like at the time. Id love to know how it's done-maybe David G can help me!

    September 28, 2010 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  16. David G

    I may be a bit bias. My son Bernie did Visual Effects for both HBO's The Pacific, and now Boardwalk Empire. I am amazed at the level of detail and of the fact that so many of the special effects are done in a way that don't call attention to themselves. The pace is a little drawn out, but this is a marathon, not a sprint. So far I am enjoying the develpment of character, things like the Vacuum Sweeper and the Atlantic City Beauty Pageant (Miss America anyone?) that are woven in. Nucky's one liner's such as asking the Fire Chief if his envelope had burned up are wondeful pieces of the tapestry. I, too, look foward to further developments and hope it has a long and fruitful run.

    September 28, 2010 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  17. Head Diva In Charge

    You don't need 5 reasons from CNN to watch this show – it's great. I will admit, the first episode kept me wondering what the heck was going on, but once I got to know who everyone was I thought this could be a suitable replacement for the Sopranos. I am excited to see where they take this show. I do have one request though..........have Patrick Dempsey back as Myer Lanskey – you would make my day!

    September 28, 2010 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
  18. Haze

    I don't know. I didn't grab me out of the gate, and I don't really feel any investment in any of the characters. The last scene was kind of lame. Maybe I'll give it another try. I think my hopes may have been too high.

    September 28, 2010 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
  19. Illiterati

    I'm particularly enjoying the show. Buscemi's always fun to watch, but Nucky is a much more layered character than any I've seen him do before.

    Just when I thought that freaky GMan couldn't get any more odd...he steals that ribbon and fantasizes over it.


    September 28, 2010 at 4:06 am | Report abuse |
  20. JaySin420

    Best new series in a very long time, they did an amazing job of casting.

    September 27, 2010 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  21. JS

    This is one of the best costumed period dramas on TV ever. Every seam, every accessory, every color and fabric pattern is right on target. The production values alone make "Boardwalk Empire" a masterpiece of TV.

    September 27, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeremy

      I comletely agree & It's not overly boring like Mad Men. This is how you do a period piece. (and Deadwood)

      September 28, 2010 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  22. Caroline

    I'll give you my 5 reasons:
    1: Steve Buscemi finally is a smarmy bad-ass and not smarmy whiney loser. He's just the right mixture of soft touch and sleaze.
    2: Kelly McDonald is playing her character as gentle,forgiving and understanding but with a spine like a bar of iron. That's why Nucky has a little thing for her...I think he's sees a little bit of his late wife in her.
    3: Paz de la Huerta is perfect as the beautiful, loud, not quite a floozy but oft times just a tad uncouth "lady" friend that riles Nucky and his carefully honed public persona.
    4: All the guys are tough and look it, and all the women look soft, but are just as tough.
    5: The clothes.

    September 27, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  23. gc

    so far i love the show. i think nucky misses his wife and with that comes along this women needing help with 2 small children... i hope they continue to have them cross paths, but not have her change... after all the gangser movies i have seen, it is nice to see how the big names got started (al capone, etc)...... as the series continues i hope they will continue to give us the back story to all the characters.......once again so far so good....

    September 27, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  24. khocolatemoose

    I gotta say I'm not a big television guy. I used to dig the Sopranos early on, but lost interest after the third season. HBO seems to find every excuse it can to show excessive nudity. I'm not a prude, it would just be nice if it actually contributed to the story. With Marky-Mark and Scorsese working on this project, maybe I'll give it go. Thanks for the list.

    Feel free to add to the conversation about films at

    We'd love to hear what you think, and often.


    September 27, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |

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