Sunday night is when the A-game television shows come out to play. And just as we bid adieu to “True Blood,” HBO trotted out its biggest gun ever—”Boardwalk Empire,” a Martin Scorsese-directed series about Atlantic City in the 1920s just as Prohibition has gone into effect. The show is one of the most expensive ever made—the pilot cost $50 million and required the building of a replica Atlantic City boardwalk in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. And so we all wondered if the series would be evocative of a specific era, à la its Sunday night TV neighbor “Mad Men.” Or if it would be more like “Treme”—interesting, but I only tuned in once.
After watching last night, my verdict is …… I still don’t know.
I thought Steve Buscemi was great as the series’ main character, corrupt city treasurer Nucky Thompson, who gives nothing but smiles to the Women’s Temperance Union, but behind their backs is building a bootleg business and approving hits. And, sigh, the series also stars Michael Pitt as his do-anything-to-get-ahead protege, Jimmy Darmody. I’ve loved Pitt since he first appeared on “Dawson’s Creek“—he’s like a more Leo-tastic Leonardo DiCaprio. I wasn’t as sold, however, on the character Margaret—a temperance enthusiast who Nucky tries to help out of an abusive marriage. There’s something too timid about Kelly Macdonald’s performance in the role. See what I mean below. No bite.
Critics, however, have seen far more episodes of the show and seem to all think it’s amazing. Entertainment Weekly tells us, “This week’s debut is probably the least typical (the showiest, the slowest) of the episodes I’ve seen. The production becomes more sleek, emotionally complex, and sly in its subsequent hours.” The Chicago Sun-Times says, “The characters are unforgettable, and the history, of course, is more entertaining than fiction. The filming of ‘Boardwalk Empire’ just may be more decadent than the decadence it’s celebrating. It’s not TV, and it’s not really HBO. It’s an event, not to be missed.” And the NY Daily News adds, “Watching HBO’s new ‘Boardwalk Empire’ is like sitting in your favorite tavern and hearing someone say, ‘Drinks are on the house.’ Friends, it doesn’t get much better.”
So, yes, I will be giving it another shot. How about you?