With Martin Scorsese directing and Terence Winter writing, HBO’s newest series is sure to be a hit. Expect some deep philosophical prodding in the way that The Wire explored the perpetual nature of inner-city poverty and how The Sopranos showed the human side of gangsters. Boardwalk Empire will be about prohibition, questioning the motives and exploring it’s ineffectiveness, creating a virtual transfer of tax dollars into the pockets of organized crime. The Prohibition Era lasted from 1919 to 1933. Atlantic City was notorious during this time period for its lax enforcement on the alcohol ban.
Steve Buscemi stars as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, a character closely based on Enoch Johnson, an Atlantic City politician and racketeer. Buscemi pulls off the dark and calculating role, showing “compassion” for an immigrant by eliminating her husband. Probably worth mentioning: it it kinda creeps me out that Buscemi appears to be wearing lipstick. But that’s neither here nor there.
Gotta love his brokering the sale of 500 cases of whiskey (bought at $70/case and sold at $120) and then getting a kickback when his assistant (Michael Pitt as Jimmy Darmody) steals the Canadian Club from Luciano and Rothstein’s crew on their way back to Chicago. Al Capone, a young hustler, teamed up with Jimmy for the heist and could be an emerging character as well. As an aside, Canadian Club has been getting some serious airtime lately. Besides being featured on Boardwalk Empire, it’s also on Mad Men as Don Draper’s drink of choice.
Boardwalk Empire Terminology
Some of the language is true to the time period, but not well-understood anymore. Here were a few that stuck out:
- Bead – The bubbles formed in moonshine liquor. Supposedly big bubbles indicate a higher proof. Moonshine producers added a beading oil to make the bubbles larger and fool people into thinking they were drinking a higher proof.
- Clams – slang for dollars. For what it’s worth, a dollar in 1920 is equal to about $12 today
- Consumption – another name for tuberculosis
- Dice games – Baccarat and craps in a casino. Less formal versions were likely played on the streets
- Rube – Hick. Country dweller
- Skilled player – A gambler whose odds are better than the casino. Counting cards or outright cheating are ways to accomplish this. Arnold Rothstein is accused of cheating by the pit boss, but it’s tough to know if counting cards was considered to be cheating in 1920. The syndicate also alludes to Rothstein fixing the Black Sox World Series of 1919, but the level of his involvement is disputed.
The show has a pretty large set — apparently built in Red Hook Brooklyn. It’s sort of amusing that it looks a lot like current-day Asbury Park. One would think it’d have been easier to just rebuild part of Asbury’s dilapidated boardwalk, but I’m sure there were good reasons not to film there, probably it’s lack of proximity to New York City.
How many seasons will Boardwalk Empire last?
- 1 (1%, 1 Votes)
- 2 (12%, 10 Votes)
- 3 (25%, 21 Votes)
- 4+ (62%, 51 Votes)
Total Voters: 83