'Boardwalk Empire': Fall TV's best bet
There are a lot of reasons you should watch HBO’s new series “Boardwalk Empire,” starting with its exquisite re-creation of 1920s Atlantic City and its excellent star, Steve Buscemi.
Quite simply, it’s the best new series of the fall.
What it’s about: Prohibition-era Atlantic City, the bootleg capital of the east, is ruled by one man — Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi) — with help from his brother, Sheriff Elias Thompson (Shea Whigham), and others.Thompson is the city’s treasurer, which is sort of like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.
Meanwhile, Thompson’s driver and assistant — back from the Great War — is baby-faced, blue-eyed killer Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt), who over-reaches and draws the attention of the feds — most notably Agent Van Alden (Michael Shannon).
This production was conceived by Martin Scorsese and produced by Terence Winter, the longtime executive producer of “The Sopranos.” The masters’ touches are evident throughout.
My take: After his nearly 30-year career as a cherished character actor, you’d assume we’ve seen about all there is to see in the Buscemi bag of tricks.
But with “Boardwalk Empire,” all assumptions are demolished.
He’s a leading man here and that means you have to completely, utterly buy his portrayal of Thompson as a genial crook with the slightest sentimental streak. The miracle is that you probably will.
There’s another major star here besides Buscemi — the gorgeously reimagined lost world of 1920s Atlantic City, which Thompson glides through like king and pasha. They almost seem made for each other, and in Scorsese’s and Winter’s estimation, they clearly were.
To believe that world, you must first see it. In “Empire,” you see, hear, smell and very nearly taste it.
Bottom line: The most entertaining — and beautiful — new series on TV this fall.
“Boardwalk Empire” premieres on HBO on Sunday at 9 p.m.