I’m not gonna lie. Boardwalk Empire almost slipped by me.
I dismissed it as another half-hearted attempt at HBO’s intentions on remaining relevant. I wasn’t going to spend more of my hard earned dollars supporting a network that had lost its way. Prior attempts at groundbreaking television since the Sopranos never connected with audiences on a mass scale. Take Rome, or the overcompensating In Treatment. Even Entourage couldn’t stop my from calling Comcast and cutting the channel altogether.
Then I sat down and saw one episode of Boardwalk Empire On Demand and I was hooked. Game. Set. Match.
Let’s call a spade a spade. Boardwalk Empire is basically the prequel to the Sopranos. Nucky Thompson is Tony minus the snotty kids and Jersey wife. In fact, they made sure to make the lead character nothing like the real life Nucky Johnson, hence he looked too much like Tony Soprano.
This is not a bad thing by the way, as the Sopranos writing team, with the blessing of Martin Scorcese, have been able to make gangsters relateable, and humanize those who shouldn’t be. And at the end, you want to cheer for Nucky, the corrupt Atlantic City bootlegger and gangster, as he tries to twart America’s idiotic Prohibition laws and the clutches of the Government agent Van Helden.
Other than the somewhat dissapointing finale, the show has been superb all around. Standout acting roles by Steve Buchemi (Nucky), Michael Pitt (Jimmy’ Darmody), Michael Shannon (Agent Van Helden), and The Wire’s Michael K. Williams (Chalky White).
But it’s not just the acting. The cinematography, set design, and costuming need to win awards. The show itself is just a step beyond what we should expect for a television drama. Will we all be sporting three piece suits in 2011? Only time will tell.