“Boardwalk Empire” returns for its second season Sunday on HBO and not everybody is happy about that.
We’ve been reading some of the other critics’ takes on the Roaring ’20s gangster series and, frankly, we’re surprised by some of the negativity we’ve come across. The consensus, generally speaking, of the naysayers seems to be that the show takes too long to tell its story. They’re saying the show’s huge cast of characters and sprawling multi-city storylines (Atlantic City, New York, Chicago) require too much exposition between action sequences. In short, they’re saying that, despite all the care and money that’s been spent to re-create the world of the 1920s, they’re bored.
Well, everybody is entitled to their opinions, but we happen to think they’re wrong. As a matter of fact, we happen to think “Boardwalk Empire” is the finest scripted series currently on TV.
The attention paid to period details in this series is breathtaking: Even when criticizing the show, every critic at least gives credit to this show’s costumes and settings. Our own take is: The costumes and settings are such a pleasure to look at that we wouldn’t even care if there was little or no action in the series.
But there happens to be action, and plenty of it: We’re finding that there’s just enough. In fact, the producers of “Boardwalk Empire” – and these include Martin Scorsese, Mark Wahlberg and Terence Winter (“The Sopranos”) – seem to be adhering to a formula that’s been long established for gangster movies and TV shows: Move the plot along at a steady pace, but make sure there’s a well-choreographed scene of gangster-style violence at just the right intervals. Those are the scenes that gangster-movie fans crave. And if too many episodes go by without one of them, then that’s when those fans will begin abandoning the show.
The huge cast of characters and the actors who are playing them: “Boardwalk Empire” has the finest cast on TV. Sensational work is being done by Steve Buscemi, as kingpin Nucky Thompson, Kelly Macdonald as Margaret Schroeder, Michael Kenneth Williams as Chalky White, Michael Pitt as Jimmy Darmody, Anthony Laciura as Nucky’s assistant Eddie, Jack Huston as the disfigured World War I veteran Richard Harrow (especially him), Michael Shannon as the Treasury Department agent Nelson Van Alden (especially him too) and about a dozen others.
Antique cars and tommy guns: What more could you ask for? Certainly, it’s a matter of personal taste, but we’ve loved gangster pictures ever since we were little and TV showed all the old gangster movies – “The Public Enemy” (James Cagney), “Little Caesar” (Edward G. Robinson), “The Roaring Twenties” (Cagney and Humphrey Bogart), “Angels with Dirty Faces” (Cagney and Bogart again) and others. For us, at its heart, “Boardwalk Empire” is basically a 2011 version of “The Untouchables,” the infamous Prohibition Era TV series that aired from 1959 to 1963 on ABC, and was known as the most violent show on TV.
The bottom line is this: We’re having a blast watching “Boardwalk Empire.” Simply put, it’s pure entertainment, and that suits us just fine.
“Boardwalk Empire” airs Sunday night (Sept. 25) at 9/8c on HBO.