Sunday, September 26, 2010

To Be Continued

So I've seen Boardwalk Empire, the most touted HBO debut ever.  Created by Terence Winter of The Sopranos, with a pilot directed by Martin Scorsese, it certainly is a big deal.

Set in Atlantic City, 1920, it's about the rise of gangsters (not that they didn't exist already) during Prohibition.  The characters are based
on real-life figures, though I have no idea how much liberty is being taken.  The lead is Steve Buscemi as "Nucky" Johnson, the guy who apparently runs the town.  Other figures include Al Capone (just starting out in the biz), Lucky Luciano and Arnold Rothstein.

My first reaction is haven't we seen this before?  Scorsese and Winter have done the gangster deal quite a bit--what attracted them to this project?  Well, I guess the setting is new.  In fact, one of the stars of the show is all the period detail, which much make it pretty costly for cable.  It's also a transitional time, where mass culture is just starting--recordings and movies as we understand them are taking over, and we'll soon get widespread radio.  This is gangsterism just before all those gangster movies codified it.  (We get our picture of what gangster should be like from the movies, but so did the gangsters.)

It's also a time of reform.  The Mann Act, the (first) Red Scare, women voting, and, of course, Prohibition.  No matter what else it did, Probition gave organized crime a real boost, and we get to watch people in on the ground floor.

So does the show work? Sort of.  It's hard to review a pilot.  Not until we learn about the characters a little more do we get an idea of what the show is about.  Just as how Atlantic City will run after Prohibition was uncertain, so is the show's premise still unclear.  And Steve Buscemi, so far, doesn't seem right for the lead.  The rest of the cast, however, seems pretty solid.

So I'd put this in the category of being worth further study.


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