Hollywood on the Hill: Boardwalk Empire

Hollywood on the Hill: Boardwalk Empire

When a network decides to spend $50 million on a pilot, the show better be damn good. And, in the case of HBO’s new hit Boardwalk Empire, it is. Written by Terence Winter, the writer of The Sopranos, and produced by Mark Wahlberg and Martin Scorsese, Boardwalk Empire looks like it not only will be HBO’s newest hit, but also a sure contender for Emmy wins and Monday morning coffee break discussions.

The setting for the show is outstanding – HBO has had an exact replica of the Atlantic City Boardwalk reconstructed in Brooklyn. The cast, led by Steve Buscemi (who is the ugliest man in Hollywood, closely followed by Mickey Rourke) is first class. It’s HBO, so obviously the direction, writing, costumes, music and cinematography are all excellent. However, what will make this show a classic is simply the premise.

Americans love gangsters in our pop culture. They give us a sense of “badassness” that we do not get out of every day life. The Departed, The Godfathers, Casino, Scarface, The Town (it’s very good) and The Sopranos are all fixtures in our entertainment culture. All of these have excellent acting and directing, but more importantly, they have what we love to see … grown men acting like animals. And that is what we will love about HBO’s new show. Politicians, policemen and businessmen all selling booze during prohibition and killing anyone who gets in their way. Furthermore, Boardwalk Empire also gives us the classy feeling that many mafia movies don’t, as it is thought of as a period piece. Essentially, it’s a much cooler Mad Men.

So what does HBO’s new phenomenon mean for the future of our entertainment culture? To me, it means the demise of standard programming. A network like ABC or FOX could never create a show like Boardwalk Empire, as there are just too many FCC regulations. Imagine a show about gangsters where no blood, nudity, foul language or drugs could be shown. It would be terrible. Imagine if Entourage was on FOX. You could never see Turtle ripping a bong, Ari cursing every two seconds and Vince having sex with porn stars. It would suck (sorry, but I’m not sorry about that comment, Mom).

As anyone who flipped on HBO at two in the morning would know, HBO can show whatever they want. People love nudity, drugs, blood and foul language. How great would Fox’s 24 have been on Showtime? Jack Bauer could have been twice as legendary as he was. Even a show like Gossip Girl would be way sexier, more believable and more entertaining if it were on Cinemax and not standard cable. You can’t try to tell me that you wouldn’t like to actually see the doctors in Grey’s Anatomy having sex, or hear McDreamy drop the f-bomb every once in awhile.

Boardwalk Empire, on the HBO network where it belongs, promises not to similarly disappoint – nothing will be left out.