HBO’s ‘Boardwalk Empire’ quenches thirst for good TV

Posted by · 12:07 pm · September 20th, 2010

Moving away from the big screen for a moment, I’ve been looking for a series to come along and take the place of “Deadwood” (RIP), and I think I may have found it.  It’s not that HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” is immediately up to the genius level of David Milch’s series, but it absolutely showcases the potential for a world as densely populated, one that I look forward to losing myself in week after week.

The Martin Scorsese-directed pilot debuted last night, mostly to critical approval.  It was an event to say the least (fit with a pre-show) and Scorsese’s hand behind the camera was welcome on the small screen.  The cinephile’s film-loving little touches here and there (an iris-out and in to open and close the episode, a Fatty Arbuckle silent arbitrarily enjoyed by characters in one scene) were unmistakable, and even though he’ll be a creative force behind the scenes, I can already tell I’ll miss him after this opener.

Steve Buscemi, meanwhile, finally gets a little respect with a considerably beefy leading role and — no surprise to anyone — he navigates it with ease.  The supporting field, from Kelly Macdonald to Michael Stuhlbarg to Paz de la Huerta, are all perfectly suited.  The only weak link for me is Michael Pitt, who doesn’t seem to be there yet, but I’ll give him some time.  And the opening credits sequence left something to be desired (not that it matters — it doesn’t).

Can’t wait for next Sunday.  Did you see the pilot?  What did you think?

[Photo: Home Box Office]

→ 22 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

22 responses so far

  • 1 9-20-2010 at 12:17 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    If they ever make a James Cagney biopic, Stephen Graham is definitely the man.

  • 2 9-20-2010 at 12:30 pm

    Mike_M said...

    Loved it… for some reason I don’t remember the iris-out to open the the show, was it during Buscemi’s talk to the woman’s club (I am forgetting the opening scene I think)… looking forward to next week. I felt the opening credits where a bit off, they looked cool, but pretty modern for a period show. Can’t wait until next week though.

  • 3 9-20-2010 at 12:50 pm

    Loyal said...

    I really enjoyed it. It look me a bit to get adjusted to Buscemi playing such a heavy but as his role is written, he’s a gangster with a heart of gold.

    I’ll join the chorus on those credits, they seemed really off.

    I also hear that episodes 2-6 are much better than the pilot. Good stuff!

  • 4 9-20-2010 at 12:59 pm

    James said...

    Excellent premiere, and the general consensus from critics is that it gradually gets better so I’ll be checking it out every week.

  • 5 9-20-2010 at 1:02 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Mike: It’s on the stop watch of the guy on the boat in the first scene.

  • 6 9-20-2010 at 1:10 pm

    Ella said...

    Glad you brought this one up, Kris. I thought it was excellent. I felt completely immersed in that world. Everything–the sets, costuming, music–drew me right in. Compelling storyline and characters, good acting. Definitely appointment TV on Sunday nights.

  • 7 9-20-2010 at 1:11 pm

    Marc R. said...

    Very promising. I hope that Michael K. Williams has a good role. With this and Dexter premiering next week, sundays are gonna be truly awesome this year

  • 8 9-20-2010 at 1:20 pm

    Mike_M said...

    Thanks Kris, that is right, now I remember… I felt like it was déjà vu with this and both Shutter Island island starting with a foggy boat scene.

  • 9 9-20-2010 at 1:34 pm

    Paul8148 said...

    That interesting because I been hearing Pitt getting Best in Show reviews…

  • 10 9-20-2010 at 1:36 pm

    Filmoholic said...

    Liked it. Although I thought some of the editing was a little off and I kept wondering why, until I remembered that Schoonmaker didn’t work on this. Not saying it’s choppy, but Schoonmaker’s editing is an integral component of Scorsese’s films, I guess, so the absence is a bit noticeable. Other than that, the pilot moved swiftly and the cast is fantastic. I really like Stuhlbarg’s character and I hope we see more of him in the upcoming episodes.

    The storyline obviously uses familiar tropes of the gangster genre, but as long as it keeps the characters interesting and the subplots in check, this should be good. I’m not ready to call this genius or anything, but if the rest of the season is even better than this, we’re in for a treat.

  • 11 9-20-2010 at 1:58 pm

    Lucas said...

    I really disliked the opening credits too – but otherwise it was entertaining!

  • 12 9-20-2010 at 2:16 pm

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    I thought Treme was already the new critical darling of HBO filling the void? I’ve seen neither, but I certainly will in the future, I’m just holding out for the first season dvd boxes.

  • 13 9-20-2010 at 4:34 pm

    The InSneider said...

    I agree about the opening credits. Was underwhelmed. Cool music but the visuals didnt seem to fit the tone of the series.

  • 14 9-20-2010 at 5:18 pm

    Mark Kratina said...

    Loved it. Didn’t care for the opening credits, I’m still a little underwhelmed by Buschemi, but I thought he did great.

    I watched the credits closely to see which Fatty Arbuckle short that was- did anyone recognize it?

    Kris: Looking for a replacement show for Deadwood? You’re not a Mad Men guy, then, I presume? Rubicon is a great show too, in the same vein as Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View, and All the President’s Men.

  • 15 9-20-2010 at 5:26 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I have the first three seasons of Mad Men and have been meaning to catch up for a while now. I will at some point.

  • 16 9-20-2010 at 8:33 pm

    Kevin K. said...

    Definitely the best pilot episode of a series since the LOST pilot. Given that LOST remains my all time favorite TV show, that’s saying a lot IMO. Hopefully the rest of the show can deliver on the promise of the pilot. But you can definitely feel Marty’s hand in it. Can’t wait to see what the show has in store for us.

  • 17 9-20-2010 at 11:58 pm

    Jeremy said...

    For what it’s worth, apparently Scorsese served as a consultant on the remaining first season episodes, so perhaps the show will retain some of his trademark visual flourishes.

    I enjoyed the pilot, though I doubt it will displace “Mad Men” as my favorite current show anytime soon. Now that “Dollhouse” has been canceled (and “Deadwood” and “The Wire” are long dormant), it’s the best show on TV by a wide margin.

  • 18 9-21-2010 at 12:29 am

    the othe mike said...

    really enjoyed it.

  • 19 9-21-2010 at 7:26 am

    Mark Kratina said...

    Not to get too off track here, but did anyone watch Carnivale on HBO? It was on in 2003-2005. I caught on DVD this year and loved it- thought it was amazing. HBO apparently cancelled it after 2 seasons because it cost them $4 million per episode and it wasn’t bringing in the ratings.

  • 20 9-21-2010 at 8:20 pm

    Blastin said...

    I will say, I went to high school with Paz DLH (in Brooklyn, NY), and she once made what was possibly the most self-indulgent black and white student film any of us had ever seen. We had to try hard not to laugh, since she was in the audience. She also only had about one outfit throughout 7th and 8th grade.

    But I’m actually glad to see her doing well these days.

    Eva Amurri was in my class, too. And Lena Dunham (apparently a big deal at SXSW) the year after me.

    Where’s my big break?

    (Oh, right. I’m a teacher…)

  • 21 9-21-2010 at 8:21 pm

    Blastin said...

    (I like being a teacher, that was supposed to be sarcastic.)

    And they were all nice back then. I mostly find all this somewhat amusing as the years pass.