It’s too long to wait. Okay, this may just be a one-off series, it may be extravagant but it’s got great reviews! It’s a critics darling, much better than vampire stories and all of that jazz. Oh yeah, I’m talking about Boardwalk Empire, a HBO TV production that premiered on the 19th in the states. Which means I’ll have to wait another year or so before I can even get a small part of my mitts on this. Blasted UK.
Set in Atlantic City in the prohibition era, Boardwalk Empire centres on Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, played by Steve Buscemi, a man who straddles both sides of the law, can be completely charming and other times a complete jerk. Just like all our other favourite antiheroes then. When Prohibition finally arrives in the area, Nucky seizes the opportunity to try and get booze to whoever can afford to pay him for it. Step forward Michael Shannon as Nelson Van Elden, the boardwalk’s prohibition officer. Now for obvious reasons I haven’t seen the show, so when I think about what Van Elden might be like, images of The Simpsons’ stuffy Rex Banner come to mind, all telegrams, fedoras and old-fashioned slang like “hooch” and “bushwah” (oh, wait, that last one was Truman in Futurama…)
Okay, so other than a couple of star names it doesn’t sound that exciting right? Right!?
Wrong! The show came from the mind of Terence Winter, one of the producers of The Sopranos, who in turn took the idea for the show from Nelson Johnson’s book “Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City.” Plus, the show has caught one heck of a big fish in the form of Martin Scorsese, who directed the pilot episode – now that’s one hell of a seal of approval of old Marty wants in on the act. The show was also given a massive budget to fiddle around with, allowing the producers to build a real replica of the 1920s boardwalk… in a parking lot!
The thing is, it’s been a while since there were any sweeping crime shows on TV. Both The Sopranos and The Wire ended ages ago, leaving a gaping void in the market for shows that looked at the side of the criminal, rather than that of the cop (where a whole wave of shows come in, with a varied degree of success). Sure, if you want gritty then you could say that True Blood is a good start but to be honest, I’ve watched it without any initial prejudices and it’s basically Twilight with a lot more sex and violence (but I do love the dirty theme song). True love stories don’t sit well with me when it comes to drama. It’s all a bit… tacked on. You can make a much more interesting piece of work out out the horribleness of human nature, as both The Sopranos and The Wire showed. Heck, even Dexter has a terrible flipside to his apparently perfect home life.
And don’t get me started on what we Brits have to offer. We’re still leaning, praying, hoping that the new series of Spooks will turn out okay because heck, we’ve run out of ideas for shows. The last drama we produced of any real weight or worth was the brilliantly brutal Red Riding, and that was ages ago! So to me imports are the only serials worth watching: they’re unpredicatble, gritty, fresh, actually have some good acting in them and don’t have a scripts that are so patronising or clunky it would make your four-your-old sister embarassed.
So yes, I want to see Boardwalk Empire right now. But I can’t. I must wait, patiently. Luckily, coming soon is the newest drama from the wonderful guys who brought us The Wire and Generation Kill, Treme, so that should help to fill that gap…. For a while.