So I'm a television snob. But not your regular, excuse me I only watch Sopranos, Madmen and The Wire type of high-class viewing television snob. I only watch what I like, nay, what I love, as opposed to what's deemed classic or groundbreaking, the usual. So I'm a little out of the loop because I'm still snuggling over repeats of early X-Files and House because they're easy to watch, really repetitive like, and when I get the time to watch television (mostly late at night before I go asleep) because I lead a stupidly busy life, I want to know I'm going to be gently entertained in a way that I understand. Cuddled. Familiar, attractive characters. Nice easy storylines that resolve themselves quickly. Mild drama.
I reserve challenges for books and games normally. Being a viewer is really hard for me post taking a degree that was founded mostly in critical theory, because you sit there with your big feminist sledgehammer or your twelve-point story arc guide going 'WRONG WRONG WRONG' about everything. Poor dialogue makes me want to get sick. I was just carved into a nasty little critic over four years, and my tastes have been really closely refined. Mind neatly narrowed. Spare time, diced. So when I choose to invest in a new series, say the way I briefly did in Madmen (which slapped me with an ugly distaste because everyone in it is so, so malicious and not even in an interesting Battlestar Galactica type way), I have seriously high standards. Like proper high standards. As in if you take me halfway through a season one, have a handsome protagonist, compelling drama, then you dim the lights and say something that jars with me in any, way shape or form or even begin to bore me in the slightest I am so out of there like a bat out of hell you should just consider your number deleted and the DVDs loaned to someone I know will never give them back. That's how high.
So people have been preaching Boardwalk Empire to me for a while. I'll level with you. I don't watch things based on who directed them or who's in them, because that's what people kept on at me about. Martin Scorsese? Don't care for his films particularly, not going to rant and rave like a film-nerd about how important they are, whatever. Steve Bruscemi? Totally thought he was someone else until I saw him in the title sequence, hadn't a clue who he was. I'm not a pop-culture nerd, I'm a life nerd, the specifics of actors and directors concerned me when I was fifteen, and maybe when I was in my undergrad, now not so much. IMDB was designed for people like me who have chronic celebrity name/face/general remembering issues.
I gave in to it last night when I was kind of reaching a state of relative normality and ability to maybe engage with something that was slightly more stimulating than Ace of Cakes or Jamie's 30 Minute Meals. It's good. It's really, really good. Visually remarkable, like particularly the pilot episode, so maybe all this talk about Scorsese might be true. The setting of it is in Atlantic City, 1920, and Christ does it cover the glamour and the squalour all at once. The party scenes revel in decadence and then go straight to scenes in the humble tiny homes of small Irish immigrant families by the sea. Some atmosphere on it.
Speaking of Irish, the lass from Intermission, Kelly Mac Donald (who, IMDB tells me, is apparently going to play Helena Ravenclaw in the last Harry Potter movie, lucky her) plays this misfortunate youngone who's story I can sort of predict, and has one of those godawful turn of the century Sean O'Casey Irish accents. I know she's meant to and that's probably what Irish people talked like but it's kind of making me angry. She's very compelling aside from that and the two children who play her kids are pure adorable.
As a central protagonist, Bruscemi is spot on. He has a great face. So unlikely looking. His character. Enuch 'Nucky' Thompson has some really terrific moments (one or two are a little obvious but most of them are great) where you can legitimately see in his face that he understands that there's a lot of fucked up things going on in the society of the 1920s. He wants women to vote. He seems uncomfortable with slaves. Now I'm only two episodes in, so this might change, don't know yet. But we really are shown his discomfort at a lot of the things in his society - despite him being a blatant total gangster, he's kind of supposed to be a hooker with a heart of gold type. I think I'm with him for the long haul.
There are some terrific historical landmarks in it, in terms of characters, I won't drop any names but Jesus there's one point in the pilot when a driver introduces himself and you nearly leap off your seat with excitement because that was a real person in the real world! Very effectively done, the script is excellent. I mean there are moments where as Ceri pointed out, I was having Black Swan-esque frustration fits, because there were a couple of really blatantly over-drawn THIS IS A METAPHOR, DO YOU UNDERSTAND METAPHORS? moments but, dare I say it, I forgave them quite quickly. There are some moments in the plot where I'm like yeaaahhh x or y is blatantly going to happen here but I hope I'm surprised nicely. I'm looking forward to spending the rest of my recovery lying in a ball and watching the next ten hours of the series. However, if it puts one foot out of line it's getting deleted then it's on to Sons of Anarchy or back to Carnivale for me, hype may precede it and it has done well so far, but if it makes me want a second series... it's sound in my book.
I'll keep yis posted. I'm off to watch another two episodes then apply for a job (ugh being an adult ugh)