Thursday, Dec. 09, 2010

Boardwalk Empire

History repeats itself — in this case, HBO's history of taking familiar historical periods and delivering them in all their raw, deromanticized glory. Yes, Boardwalk Empire is a Mob story, with blood and bootlegging and real-life gangsters like Al Capone and Arnold Rothstein. But like Deadwood and Rome, it's also a founding myth: in this case, the story of how the reformist paternalism of Prohibition produced an opportunity that created fortunes and ushered in the golden era of organized crime. It's also a politics story: Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) is the fictionalized county boss who turns Atlantic City, N.J., into a rum-running center, moving at equal ease in the underworld and at political conventions. As Nucky says, the only thing more appealing than a product someone doesn't have is a product someone's not allowed to have; Boardwalk shows how desire is the stuff empires are made from. (HBO)