Sunday night brought a spectacle to the screens of HBO viewers with “Boardwalk Empire’s” premiere. The pilot was directed by Martin Scorsese and Tim Van Patten and starred an impeccably chosen cast including Steve Buscemi and Michael Pitt.
After weeks of hype and fretting about HBO’s future there’s no reason why this show will not be another hit for the network like “The Sopranos” or the more recent “Treme”.
The show was written and produced by Terence Winter the genius behind “The Sopranos”. In a recent interview Winter said “I honestly thought it might never get past the pilot…I just thought it was going to cost far too much to make everything look right.” But it seems that one episode has put the critics and the creators at ease.
Having just seen the pilot episode some critics have already decided that “Boardwalk Empire” will rule the new Emmy Awards. This is just a week after the Hollywood Reporter and others said that HBO would need to come with up something superb to bolster their subscription figures. Thought “Boardwalk Empire” might not mend all of HBO’s woes it will go a long way.
The pilot cost $20 million to create and it shows. The recreation of prohibition era Atlantic City including waterfront, casinos, dance halls, city housing and funeral home basements is magnificent.
Its story was adapted from Nelson Johnson’s book “Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City”. The tale follows Steve Buscemi’s likable character of Enoch “Nucky” Thompson a politician making a profitable career as a bootlegger.
The pilot sets the scene with Nucky holding a sort of bootlegging summit with gangsters from New York and Chicago arriving to strike up deals with Nucky and his associates.
The show, based on true events, also paints a true picture of the social issues at the time. For example, Jimmy Darmody, Nucky’s driver has recently returned from the trenches of WWI and is haunted and driven by what he’s witnessed there.
Then there’s the Irish immigrant Margaret who is pregnant with her third child and being beaten by her alcoholic, gambling husband. Nucky makes fast work of him husband and shows himself to be a caring man, at heart, visiting her in hospital.
Oddities of the time highlighted with perfection such as the baby incubators store on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. Nucky peers through a window to see a sign advertising 3lb babies. Presumably showing the advances of modern technology at the time.
Costume, character, scenes and plot were seamless and of course all by the impeccable design of Martin Scorsese and Terrence Winters.
Martin Scorsese directed the pilot episode along with Tim Van Patten and his stamp can be seen all over it. Especially in the killing scene, some of which are brilliantly brutal, without being graphic.
Along with Terrence Winter, Scorsese recreated 1920s Atlantic City, in a lot in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York, to perfection. Now it is up to the following directors such as Jeremy Podeswa, Alan Taylor and Allen Coulter to recreate the magic of the pilot episode.
Thankfully Scorsese will remain on hand as an executive producer to give a helping hand. It’s thought that each of the next 11 episodes cost $5 million each to make.
Jeff Cusson, the Senior Vice President of corporate affairs at HBO said “Obviously at HBO we have a commitment to invest in high quality talent and that shows on the screen…I'd be lying if I said that we weren't aware of how much is riding on this."
Although HBO’s concern about their subscriptions are real with shows like “Boardwalk Empire” being created under there name there’s still something to optimistic about.