Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Boardwalk Empire

Just when I think television is truly and finally dead (Even Mad Men disappointed me this week), along comes Martin Scorcese's new TV series Boardwalk Empire. Get thee to HBO and see it fast, though, because I think it's probably too good to survive for long in the vast wasteland.

Since we're now in this post-Sopranos world where it's become the custom for shows to bombard us with huge ensemble casts, it's a bit too early to suss out exactly what's what and who's on first. But our star is Steve Buscemi as Nucky, a sleazy Atlantic City gangster and bootlegger at the outset of prohibition in 1920, and Michael Pitt is Jimmy, Nucky's protege who developed some sociopathic tendencies during World War I. It remains to be seen how the other characters in the pilot episode ultimately shake out in the scheme of things.

And speaking of The Sopranos, this show is written by that show's Terence Winter, and a couple of third-tier Sopranos actors show up here as well. But to me, it's the Coen Brothers' Miller's Crossing that Boardwalk Empire really owes a stylistic debt to. Everything about it simply screams, "let's make a TV show out of Miller's Crossing", and that's not a bad thing. I'm not sure if it's shot on actual film or not, but it sure looks like it, and the lavish period costumes and sets will definitely excite aficionados of the era.

But that's the problem. The average shlep out there is not really a jazz-age enthusiast, and though I love Steve Buscemi, he's not exactly easy on the eyes these days as a leading man. Boardwalk Empire may be tailor-made for my tastes, but that's also probably the kiss of death for commercial success.

- - JSH

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