Monday, October 4th, 2010

Alright Already, "Boardwalk Empire"

This fuckin' showMy feeling with television series is that you withhold judgment until about the third episode of the show because the pilots need to do so much heavy lifting-exposition, scene-setting, character establishment, etc.-that it is unfair to render a decision on a project based on the way it brings you in. So I've been extremely patient with HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" thus far. I thought the first episode was pretty great, if extremely scene-setty and box-ticky ("There's Arnold Rothstein!" "Hey, it's Al Capone!" "Oh, he's Lucky Luciano!" If the black guy waiting impatiently for Steve Buscemi in the anteroom during the premiere shouted something like, "You tell him Bumpy Johnson doesn't have time for this," I probably would have thrown something at the TV.) I gave the second episode a similar pass, based on the epic aspirations of the program, which, after all, we're stuck with it for two years, at least. After last night, my patience has run out: It is time for this show to be a show.

Don't get me wrong: I don't dislike "Boardwalk Empire." I have reservations, mainly centered around Steve Buscemi's ability to carry a series. (These will hopefully prove unfounded. We've seen glimmers of depth, which I can only assume will rise to the surface as the series goes on.) I'm impressed by the attention to detail, but also a little irked by it: It's not hard to see it as a pissing match between Terence Winter and his former "Sopranos" colleague Matthew Weiner: "Oh, so you can get the Sixties right? Try the Twenties, motherfucker!" (Last night's "What does 'motherfucker' mean?" felt like a huge winking nod to everybody.) I'm a little weary of the fruit of the David Chase coaching tree: Both this show and "Mad Men" contain a multitude of moments that I feel like I've seen before in That Jersey Show. Even the opening-and we're getting down to incredibly minor details here, but isn't that the point?-lacks flair; I can't see watching it over and over like I did with the beginning of "The Sopranos" or still do with "Mad Men."

But these are all tiny doubts, and there have only been three episodes. As slow as the show can be-a friend calls it "Boredwalk Empire"-and as heavy-handed or obvious as some of the moments are (another friend, hearing the opera on the record player at the conclusion of the pilot, said, "Oh, it's the 'Italian guy gets executed' music!"), I'm still interested in the show and where it's going. The cast is almost uniformly talented, particularly Michael Pitt and the buttocks of Paz de la Huerta. I'm rooting for this one to be great, because I think it can be. But episode three is over. All the balls are now in the air. It's time for "Boardwalk Empire" to be a TV show, and not history's longest establishing shot. As they almost certainly did not say in Atlantic City in 1920, git 'er done.

19 Comments / Post A Comment

Hirham (#1,709)

So, a question from someone overseas who hasn't seen any of this yet: Are they doing any heavy-handed Monopoly references to leaven all the gangster ones?

deepomega (#1,720)

There are definitely people going to jail? And people expecting to get out free?

mrschem (#1,757)

Am I dreaming? or did they throw one in last night? Something like 'thats what you get for buying _____?'

mrschem (#1,757)

No disrespect but I think I might just watch 'Once Upon a Time in America,' every Sunday night instead.

blueprint (#2,019)

To me, the appeal of "Boardwalk" is that you get the fun of "Sopranos" with the attention to period detail of "Rome".

As much as I'd like it to be "The Wire" set in the 20s, it's entertaining and hasn't yet fell into the the "taking itself far too seriously" that marred the final three seasons of "Sopranos".

AS long as it doesn't inspire the burning hatred I have for most (all) broadcast television, I'll be happy to keep watching.

Vulpes (#946)

Good, what I would give for some more Rome (and not this movie business they've occasionally teased with). XIII!

deepomega (#1,720)

Correct on all counts! I also love seeing an underserved decade like the 20s getting a very seedy treatment. (I keep getting a "flappers are like skanky hipsters vibe.)

keisertroll (#1,117)

What this show needs is more rip elbowing and more uses of the term "Eh? EH?".

keisertroll (#1,117)

Also, who else here was tricked into thinking this article was a tribute to Carol Leifer's late 90's WB sitcom "Alright Already"?

Vulpes (#946)

I, too, have been leery about "Boardwalk Empire." It's kept me interested enough to keep watching, but dangerously close to "And I care why?" It doesn't help that I actually don't like mob stories, from "The Sopranos" to Goodfellas, which, I know makes me UnAmerican and a traitor to my sex.

But I actually thought things picked up a bit this week. And that girl's boobs, butt, and pudenda was total straight guy fanservice, which I'm sure you all were very happy with. We'll see how things develop (and I better at least get some man-ass soon, and not Steve Buscemi's).

I was indeed very happy with said fanservice. Although I have one quibble: The pubic hair looked suspiciously like a merkin.

Which leads me to ask … the actress couldn't stop shaving for a couple weeks for the sake of her art? C'mon!

jolie (#16)

Anyone got a line on where I can view this show on the computer machine?

jolie (#16)


jrb (#3,020)

I kind of wondered about that in the pilot: were there breast implants in the 1920s?

keisertroll (#1,117)

One word: Jellyfish.

Am I the only one who is reminded of Johnny Sack every time Arnold Rothstein appears on this show?

They have the same personality: Powerful but mellow ego + perpetual mild irritation on the verge of becoming rage.

I couldn't agree with this review more. I'm hooked, but mildly disappointed so far …

What surprises me most is how … conventional it is. Entertaining, but conventional. They obviously weren't out to make any "ground-breaking new direction in serial drama" statements with this show, that's for sure.

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