The other day, I picked up the DVD box set of Season One of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.
I’ve been a huge fan of HBO television shows for many years and I have to say that Boardwalk Empire is at the top in terms of its look and style, along with Deadwood and the The Sopranos. It captures the early 1920’s in a way that is more than authentic. These are the Twenties the way we want to remember them. Beautiful, stylish, elegant… but a thin veneer over the desperation of life in those days. The Roaring Twenties was that mad, wild time in between the monstrous repugnancy of World War One and the heart-wrenching desperation that was the Great Depression, all three of which lead up to and in fact paved the way for the unspeakable horror that was to become World War Two.
Episode One takes place on New Years Eve, 1919, just before Prohibition takes effect. The setting is Atlantic City, New Jersey. America’s seaside playground.
The main character is corrupt county treasurer, Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (brilliantly played by Steve Buscemi) who is, in effect, both the political and, soon to be, criminal boss of Atlantic City. Alcohol is about to become illegal and Nucky and his group of equally corrupt politicians are about to make a killing in the bootlegging business, illegally importing Canadian whiskey and selling it to local establishments.
The show is visually stunning. The cinematography, music, sets, costumes, props, vintage automobiles… all are perfect and all evoke a by-gone era the way we wish it looked. We almost want to be a part of that hard, brutal life during those times.
I just finished watching the first episode, directed by Martin Scorsese. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it for a second. I’ve rarely seen such technical perfection in a television show. And the writing, casting and acting were just as flawless. The bar has definitely been lifted when it comes to television production standards.
I cannot wait to finish watching the rest of the episodes.
If you haven’t seen the series on HBO, treat yourself to the DVD box set and watch a season’s worth of episodes back to back.
You won’t regret it.