One of the most hyped shows of the year was HBO's Boardwalk Empire, with Martin Scorsese at the helm. With my newfound free time, I set about watching it on HBO On Demand and plowed through it pretty quickly. I did find it an enjoyable series, and here are my somewhat scattered thoughts on the show.
First, it is a stunning period piece to watch. The sets, the costumes, everything looked great. I wish I had watched it in HD instead of On Demand. Scorsese definitely had a vision for what his 1920's Boardwalk would look like and he delivered it well. The story, on the other hand, I found muddled at times. There were too many characters and too many subplots to go through. Many of the characters were too underdeveloped to keep my interest, as opposed to a show like The Wire. The pilot was especially confusing. I had to go online and figure out who was who and what roles they played. I wasn't alone either, as the TV blogger that I looked up had the same problem!
That brings me to my view that in the modern age, television has become all about the writers while movies continue to be all about the directors. Scorsese, being the headlining name, did bring quite a vision to how the show looked and felt, but the writing was just not engaging enough. I felt that the female actors as a whole were better than the male actors, but there were just too many things going on for anyone to really stand out.
This leads me to my explanation as to why Steve Buscemi was cast as the lead. Buscemi was always one of those actors who did very well with his roles, but had never really carried a project. Some people even mentioned the fact that the real life inspiration for his character was a bear of a man, very different from Buscemi's thin appearance. My guess is that they felt they had all these stories they wanted to tell, and while the lead character is the guy who greases the wheels and sets everything in motion, they didn't want the show to revolve around him. Let's compare this to The Sopranos for example. While most of the actors did well on that show with their storylines, everything revolved around James Gandolfini's larger than life Tony Soprano character.
The lack of focus definitely hurt the show in the beginning, as it took until at least the third episode for things to settle in and some people had already given up on the show by then. Once settled in, I did find the show to be entertaining enough to go right through the season. If I had HBO and it was on, I'd watch it. However, I don't think it's one of those shows that people should get HBO just to watch, as opposed to The Wire, The Sopranos, or for some, The Pacific.