Tonight, HBO began a quest to reclaim its crown as the king of dramatic television with Boardwalk Empire. Does Martin Scorsese's foray to the small screen live up to the hype and succeed in being the best TV show ever?
The Pitch: Boardwalk Empire is The Sopranos in the world of The Untouchabes with a dash (and Michael K. Williams) of The Wire.
The Setup: Prohibition has just started in the United States and Steve Buscemi's Enoch "Nucky" Thompson is a prominent Atlantic City politician who has started supplying the newly dry town with booze. Nucky's employee Jimmy Darmody (played by Michael Pitt) has returned from the first World War changed by his experiences. Motivated by his young son and wife, Darmody strives to be more than just a right-hand man.
Boardwalk Empire is both entertaining and informative, like this clip which mixes a lesson on how bootlegging works with an old fashioned violent outburst.
Cringe Factor (out of 10): 1. Scorsese's film direction translates well to the first episode. Pitt's ambitious Darmody and Kelly Macdonald's battered Margaret Schroeder are wonderful. Coming off of his Oscar-nominated role in A Serious Man, Michael Stuhlbarg plays Arnold Rothstein confidently and powerfully. Of course, Buscemi is the star, ably playing everything from smooth-talking politician to a no-nonsense casino boss.
Over/Under for Cancellation: 5 seasons. HBO has high hopes that this series will be the perennial Emmy contender that the network has missed since The Sopranos left the air. While real Prohibition lasted for thirteen years, neither the creative team nor the actors would want to be committed to the project for so long. Instead, the forces will have as long as they want to tell the story they envision.