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Monday, September 20, 2010

Boardwalk Empire Pilot review

Every time this blogger tries to study, the TV gods put something else on that’s good. Boardwalk Empire is going to earn this blogger a D in business entities, guaranteed.

We were nervous about this one because, frankly, leading actor Steve Buscemi is an uggo. We like someone nice to look at when it comes to TV. But he IS a good actor, and we really like him in this part. We were also nervous because one of us is still mad at pilot director Scorsese for Shutter Island. That movie’s ending was a cop-out, and the whole thing made one of us feel icky the whole day after it. We weren't that interested in Boardwalk Empire's subject either. But this show is a lot of fun. It's like a classy, nice-to-look-at Goodfellas in the 20s. Why is it on Sunday nights? It’s just going to make this blogger want to drink and dance. And this blogger never wants to dance.

This series is about a man who profits from getting people liquor during Prohibition (which was one of the top ten stupidest government ideas of all time, easy). We are history nerds, and we love period pieces. This blogger particularly loves this era’s clothing and music. It’s nice to see all that in a series. We hope it pays off so it doesn’t get cancelled like Rome for being too expensive.

The main character, Nucky (Buscemi), is all for prohibition, because it is going to make him rich. He even spoke at a meeting of the “Women’s Temperance League,” where the women seemed to be swooning over Nucky. Their motto was “Lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine.” Funny, our motto is “Steve Buscemi’s lips shall never touch mine.” But enough about how unattractive poor Steve is. His character, Nucky, is about the nicest gangster we’ve seen in a while. He goes to great lengths to help a pregnant woman with an abusive husband (even if one of the ways he helps her is by having the husband whacked). The other main character is a young guy named Jimmy who is played by one of the actors who creeped us out in the horror movie Funny Games. Jimmy has a wife and a cute kid, but plenty of demons from serving in the military/war. Jimmy’s goal is for Nucky to give him more credit and responsibility. He hangs out with a young Al Capone, believes he is going to hell for how he acted in the war, and most of this plot relies on questioning Jimmy’s loyalty to Nucky.

It being on HBO, there is a lot of violence, gore, sex, and the F word appears not five minutes in, so our young or discerning viewers should steer clear. This show was devilishly funny in bits. The pilot episode had more of a plot than most HBO shows’ whole seasons. There are a few surprises we won’t give away. Also, they played Enrico Caruso in a stretch where people were getting whacked, which always earns points with us.

Not yet good enough to GET HBO if you don’t have it, but it could reach that level. We expect this show to sweep the Emmy Awards next year. This is the best pilot in a long time. Looking forward to next week’s show.
Episode grade- A


  1. I agree with your review. I was also concerned about the Buscemi uggo factor (it had to be said), but I still had no trouble buying him as a smooth politician. Very good actor. Historical serial dramas (that aren't "The Tudors". Gag) are awesome, and I'm so excited that this pilot lived up to the hype!

  2. We love that you hate The Tudors, Cat. We find that show unwatchable.

  3. i've tried to watch the tudors three times and have never made it past the first 5 min of the pilot- i'm glad to hear that i'm not missing anything. i'm so happy to see Buscemi in a lead. its strange but he was my favorite actor when i was a little kid!

  4. When we watch anything portraying the Tudors, we automatically shun it if the king is not played by a fat red-headed man. We don't want that guy romanticized. He was a douchelord. Respect the history. Also, you can't get attached to any of the characters, because they are either going to die, get tossed out, or they are Henry the 8th (douchelord. No. Doucheking). Plus, we know what is going to happen. That story comes across better in a textbook.

    Steve Buscemi will forever be Mr. Pink to us.

  5. What a wonderful pilot. I love mob history, and this show draws me like a moth to a flame.
    One correction: Lucky is not Buscemi's character; Buscemi plays Enoch "Nucky" Thompson. Lucky (Charles "Lucky" Luciano) is actually played by Vincent Piazzo. He is the compadre of Arnold Rothstein (played by Michael Stuhlbarg). Luciano was New York's biggest gangster of the time, and was responsible for founding the Five Families of what became known as La Cosa Nostra (or Mafia). Another aside, Al Capone (played by Stephen Graham) claims he was in The Lost Battalion (various units of the U.S. 77th Divsion) in WWI. The Lost Battalion was almost wiped out in combat (great movie of same name starring Ricky Schroeder is highly recommended). Capone's facial scars, which he claimed came from wounds in WWI, were actually the result of a knife fight, and he never served in The Lost Battalion. As Nucky says, "Never let truth get in the way of a good story."

  6. Thanks Jim Z. You have much history knowledge.

    It's weird what the human ear hears when it has no background mob knowledge. This blogger has never been interested in mob history, thinking they were just a bunch of skeezeballs unworthy of our attention. But this show is proving that assumption wrong.

    Glad his name is Enoch/Nucky. Lucky is a dog's name.

  7. I truly hope this show will be to mob history what "Deadwood" was to Old West history. The cancelling of that show was a criminal act.

  8. Word. The lines on Deadwood were even gold. If you are going to curse, at least make it that clever.