As I begin reviewing Season 2 of Boardwalk Empire, I thought it would be a good idea to pause and discuss the series as a whole. Reviewing the background of the show might prove beneficial for those who are either newcomers to my blog or just beginning to watch the series in its entirety before Season 4 begins next September. Plus, you may learn some interesting facts you never knew before.
As a refresher, Boardwalk Empire has run for three seasons on HBO, its first premiering in September of 2010. Back in 2008, Terence Winter, who had much success producing and writing for The Sopranos was interested in another gangster-based series, only this time he wanted it to be set in the 1920s – an era that had not been deeply explored before on television. Thus, he accepted an offer to adapt the non-fiction book Boardwalk Empire to the small screen.
The book Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City by Nelson Johnson outlined the political history of Atlantic City, especially focusing on its transition from a small and humble beach town to a full-fledged seaside city full of corruption, gambling, and entertainment. A Republican named Enoch “Nucky” Johnson (no relation to Nelson Johnson) was one of the most powerful politicians during the city’s transformation during the 1920s. This is whom Nucky Thompson is based off of. Several other characters are based off real-life people as well, such as Al Capone, Arnold Rothstein, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lanksky and Johnny Torrio. I’ve touched upon a couple of these historical characters in a previous blog post: https://boardwalkblog.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/episode-8-hold-me-in-paradise/
Though the era and characters of Boardwalk Empire differ greatly from the mobsters of The Sopranos (let’s face it, Nucky Thompson and Tony Soprano are two VERY different gangsters), I think Winter’s background in the genre really contributed to his success in creating Boardwalk Empire. Winter also received help from others who have extensive experience in gangster-related productions. Most notably is Martin Scorsese, who directed the pilot episode of Boardwalk Empire and is now an executive producer, setting the stage for how the rest of the series would be directed. Scorsese has a great track record of gangster films, including Goodfellas, Gangs of New York, and The Departed. Mark Wahlberg, another executive producer of Boardwalk Empire actually started in The Departed. Finally, Winter brought on former Sopranos collaborator Tim Van Patten for the show as well.
The series’ all-star line-up of both cast and production team has obviously contributed to its outstanding success with HBO and the public. Boardwalk Empire received 18 Emmy Award nominations for its very first season, including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Steve Buscemi as Nucky) and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Kelly Macdonald as Margaret). At the Golden Globes, the show as won Best Dramatic Series while Buscemi won Best Actor in a Dramatic series and Macdonald was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a series. The show has also received awards from the Writers Guild of America, the Screen Actor’s Guild and Director’s Guild, not to mention winning a Grammy for the Season 1 soundtrack.
Though television viewership has gradually declined from the original season, I think this is partially due to an increase in online viewership, especially through HBO Go (where I personally watch the show). HBO will also be adding new characters to Season 4, which will certainly make things more interesting and perhaps draw more people. Patricia Arquette will join the cast as a speakeasy owner at odds with Nucky (surprising for a woman during the 1920s!) while actors Jeffery Wright and Ron Livingston will also have recurring roles. Arquette is known for her starring role in the NBC series Medium, Livingston played in the film Office Space and the series Sex and the City, and Wright landed roles in more recent films such as Ides of March and The Hunger Games.
All in all, the series has definitely had a successful past track record and looks to be headed in the right direction in the future. I look forward to the upcoming season, but will continue to keep myself busy reviewing former episodes! Stay tuned.
(sources for this post: Wikipedia and IMDB)