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Posted at 2:02 PM ET, 09/20/2010

'Boardwalk Empire': Did it live up to the reviews?

By Jen Chaney


"Boardwalk Empire," the Martin Scorsese-produced HBO drama about a complex web of criminal behavior in Prohibition-era Atlantic City, debuted last night and has already emerged as must-discuss TV.

A multitude of TV critics -- including the Post's own Hank Stuever -- had already trumpeted "Boardwalk Empire" as an example of epic, grand-scale television of the finest order.

And as promised, last night's premiere episode boasted rich sets, a sense of cinematic scope (thanks to direction by the great, aforementioned Scorsese) and numerous convincing performances, particularly from Steve Buscemi as the Big Boss of a bygone Atlantic City, Nucky Thompson. (BTW, want to know about the real Nucky? Check out this blog post.)

But unlike The Hollywood Reporter's James Hibberd, I'm not head over heels in love just yet.

As beautifully crafted as "Boardwalk Empire's" first episode was, it dragged a bit in spots. And so far, I can't say I feel an emotional connection to any of the characters. Granted, it's tough to develop a sense of loyalty to any fictional figure after just one episode. Nevertheless, I felt a little relieved to flip over to "Mad Men" and -- SPOILER ALERT -- find myself both amused and moved when Miss Blankenship keeled over at her desk. (And how sweet was Roger's pseudo-eulogy? "She died like she lived -- surrounded by the people she answered phones for.")

Anyway, apparently I am not the only one who admired "Empire" but felt emotionally lukewarm about the show.

Although some viewers were calling the pilot "crazy-good" on Twitter, others weren't so sure. ("Am I the only one who thought the Boardwalk Empire premiere was kind of meh?" asked a tweeter dubbed MissTerio.)

In his review, Stuever tempered his overall enthusiasm by noting that the show does "suffer in patches": "The first six episodes (which I've watched, dutifully at times) draw you in but sometimes feel overstuffed, overproduced and weirdly gauzy where the series means to be an exercise in crisp, razor-sharp filmmaking."

And Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker says that the pilot "is probably the least typical (the showiest, the slowest) of the episodes I’ve seen. The production becomes more sleek, emotionally complex, and sly in its subsequent hours."

So perhaps "Boardwalk Empire" will liven up a bit -- and make viewers feel more invested -- as the show unfolds. Even if I may have been a *teensy* bit disappointed in light of all the pre-premiere hype, this much is still true. Between the two current, most well-known TV Jersey shores -- the spraytanned, Hookup Land inhabited by Snooki, and the corrupt, early 1920s CGI-seaside town where Buscemi, Gretchen Mol and Michael Pitt reside -- I'll go "Boardwalk Empire" every time.

Did you watch the premiere? What did you think? Share your reaction by posting a comment.

More on Fall TV:

The Post's Fall TV Preview

Hank Stuever's discussion of the fall season

By Jen Chaney  | September 20, 2010; 2:02 PM ET
Categories:  TV  
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Comments

The acting was fabulous, especially Mr. Buscemi, but best of all was the theme music chosen for the lead-in credits from none other than the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Man, Scorsese has great taste in music!

Posted by: mus81 | September 20, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Your analysis is spot on. Looking back, I think it took a few episodes to latch on to Tony Soprano and the first couple of episodes of Spartacus weren't representative of the final few. Therefore, I will reserve judgment for now, but I think it is still safe to say this is excellent television.

Posted by: bill_in_damascus | September 20, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I wish they would have given us 2 hours in the premiere to become more involved. I will be giving it a few more episodes to get better and to suck my into the roaring 20s.

Posted by: Farfalle1 | September 20, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I agree with mus81: Buscemi was terrific. But the plot was from the 10,000 foot level to introduce the characters and their interactions. I figure the plot will grow taut as we get immersed in the the lives and times of BE. After all, it took me several episodes to warm to Sopranos.

One quibble. The costumes and the music: I thought the flapper look & jazz were popular later in the '20s. Fashions were still quite demure in 1920.

Posted by: doobrah | September 20, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Buscemi would be interesting even if he was doing nothing but tying his shoelaces, so, for me, he alone is worth the price of admission. I agree that it didn't quite meet my expectations, but I think that is because it has been so hyped. I am looking forward to watching this as the story develops down the road.

Posted by: NW_Washington | September 20, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

"Boardwalk Palace" did not live up to my expectations. Far to many characters were introduced (thrown at us) almost in a meaningless manner. The constant use and overuse of the "Boardwalk" facade reduced portions of the hour to a fantasy play. Further character development is necessary.This premier lacked the edge and interest of the "Sopranos" premier, a tough act to follow!

Posted by: jbbib | September 20, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Great show, very high quality in all respects.
Marty not everyone takes a shot in the head, we saw enough brain matter in the Departed. Minor point but let's get some ice pick, stiletto and garrote going here these are supposed to be real Italians just off the boat from Napoli murder was personal.

Posted by: NICKYNUNYA | September 20, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Any novel begins with an attempt to familiarize the reader with the principal characters and the atmosphere of the period setting. Good storytelling, even in a miniseries, involves SOME foundation laying.

Posted by: OttoDog | September 20, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

The acting, the story, and the music are all top notch. But I'm easy, I got sucked into True Blood after viewing just the opening title sequence. (pun intended)

Posted by: tboner2007 | September 20, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse

I really thought the best part of this episode was the music. But all in all this show looks pretty good and I plan to watch it.

Posted by: dcmotor | September 20, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Agree with 451.. too many characters thrown at us in a fifteen minute period... like Scorcese thought he only had 90 minutes. Can't remember which face was who since there was no development.... poor script and poor direction. 'Meh' is just about perfect description. Buscemi is hard to watch and doesnt pull off a leadership role... more weasel than strongman.

Posted by: horace1 | September 20, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

You TV critics have to be kidding or just blind. The pilot to BoardWalk Empire was awful! The characters were completely under-developed and not engaging. The tone was all wrong. It never felt dark. Even when Nucky says to Jimmy, "I could kill you." There was nothing menacing about it. The show was completely over-edited. The scene in the kitchen with the baby is some of the worst over-editing I have ever seen! The opening shot was Scorsese doing the opening shot from LIFE LESSONS, followed by some shots from THE DEPARTED, and ending with the cross-cutting from The GODFATHER. There's not an original moment in this man's head anymore. His choice of music was abrasive. And the cross-cutting with the comedian masking jokes did not work at all. Marty has completely lost his soul - blinded by his need to be a commercial success. This is from the man who gave us RAGING BULL?? How sad.

Posted by: stanleykubrick123 | September 20, 2010 10:29 PM | Report abuse

I was not in love with Steve Buscemi's acting. It was at times downright forced and shallow. He seems way out of his league here. There is a big difference between being a supporting actor and a lead. Steve is wonderful in those smaller, juicy, roles. Its just not working for me. The sets, costumes were all wonderful but what makes a story great is the acting. And this was hardly great acting.

Sorry Steve, I love you but this is tough to watch.

Posted by: jenilyn7 | September 21, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Love Steve Buscemi...but not his acting in this snoozer. Boring, Boring, Boring...

Posted by: Billom1 | September 21, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

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