“Boardwalk Empire” (2010)

Boardwalk Empire is this Fall’s new HBO drama starring Steve Buscemi as Enoch “Nucky” Johnson (1883–1968), Atlantic City’s Prohibition-era Mayor. The combination of boardwalk Carney hijinks and organized crime here make this into vintage HBO — an interesting cross between Carnivale and The Sopranos . Martin Scorcese directed the 70 minute pilot.

The unsurprising thing is that it works really, really well. The Prohibition-era paradigm shift is similar enough to our own era of ascendant faith to make it relevant. The first scene features Buscemi’s Johnson speaking before a local Temperance group and the environment is as colorful and bannered as a Baptist tent revival. As colorful as Johnson’s life of whoring, dealmaking as the mayor and political boss of New Jersey’s Sin City.

While Nucky Johnson and his complications are the series’ A-story, Prohibition and the fact that Johnson is involved in AC’s bootlegging industry and general criminal enterprise are the show’s B, C and D storylines. Definitely worth catching.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

For fans of: Carnivale , The Sopranos , Deadwood, Sin City , The Godfather , Steve Buscemi and period HBO Dramas in general

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