Category Archives: the wire

Boardwalk Empire

HBO does it again. Do they ever make programming that is not the best out there? No, and how can someone not like a television series that film god Martin Scorsese has his hands in? He actually directed the pilot episode, the one that got this series renewed after only one airing, if that tells you anything about its quality. It was fabulous. For me, Scorsese working on the small screen is the equivalent of Leonardo da Vinci doing a comic book – lower rent yes, but the hand of a genius on a format smaller than their mind – a spectacular effect.

“Boardwalk Empire” takes place in 1920 Atlantic City and follows the exploits of Nucky Thompson as played by Steve Buscemi. Again, Buscemi is someone suited for the big screen and therefore rules the small one. It is good to see him finally in a role that matches his abilities. His character is based loosely (or closely, depending on your perspective) of Nucky Johnson who was treasurer of Atlantic City of the time, a famously generous and equally infamously corrupt personage whose work behind the scenes has become legend.

While Nucky’s name is altered to protect both the innocent and the guilty, there are other real life folks floating around “Boardwalk Empire.” Stephen Graham’s Al Capone and certainly Vincent Piazza as Lucky Luciano are notable for their appearances here, but the real real life tour de force is Michael K. Williams as African-American gangster Chalky White. You might remember him from his role as Omar in “The Wire.”

And speaking of fantastic performances, serious props go to Kelly MacDonald, Gretchen Mol and especially to Michael Pitt as Jimmy. The latter is the real star here in my opinion, and will walk from here to much bigger and better things, if that’s possible. And Michael Shannon is particularly scary as the IRS agent pursuing Thompson.

Final word, this is damn good television, right up there with other HBO alum like “The Sopranos” and the aforementioned “The Wire” as well as stuff like “Mad Men” and “Dexter.” “Boardwalk Empire” is do-not-miss television.

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Best of 2008: Television


Yep, it’s that time of year again, time for everyone and their mother to pick what they thought was the best of the past year. I’m no different, so yes, I’m going to make you suffer through my thoughts. This time, it’s television.

For me the top ten TV series of 2008 were:

“Pushing Daisies” – While canceled, and unlikely to return as anything but reruns or DVD, this was a bright spot for me on the TV schedule. It was thoughtful, innovative and brilliant, and that’s not even going into the unique cinematic or storytelling techniques it used.

“Eli Stone” – Another unique show and cancellation victim. ABC canned both of them after giving them a second chance this season. I guess ABC has not only a bone to pick with fantasy, but also television that makes you think.

“True Blood” – Unique marketing set this HBO series apart from any other vampire series before it even hit the air with the “BloodCopy” viral marketing ploy. This TV adaptation of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series is the surprise hit of the year.

“Dexter” – In its third season this Showtime series about a serial killer who hunts other serial killers continues to amaze. Even when it’s weak, it is better than 90% of everything else out ther on the tube.

“ER” – This old favorite, now in its supposedly final season, has bounced back and become its best season in years with guest stars galore and maintaining its balance of believable characters and intense situations. I don’t want it to go.

“The Wire” – And I didn’t want this one to go either, but what’s done is done. I came late to the party here and caught up on DVD, but I have to say that “The Wire” is probably one of the best series that has beeen made for television, period.
“Parking Wars” – This reality series from A&E follows the employees of the dreaded Philadelphia Parking Authority around during their workday. It’s the only reality show of its type that even comes close to the entertainment value of “Cops.”

The bottom five of my top ten are rounded out by Cartoon Network’s “Brave and the Bold” and “Venture Bros.,” the BBC’s fourth season of “Doctor Who,” the still refreshing “Chuck,” and FX’s much-missed and unfortunately canceled “Dirt.”

In the honorable mentions and etcetera department would be “Smallville” and “South Park” as most improved series, and BET’s “Black Panther” and the CW’s “Reaper” as the most looked forward to series in 2009.

On the bad side, boos and hisses for “Heroes” and Everybody Hates Chris” for dying a slow death in 2008, and the worst show I’ve seen this year would, of course, be the American version of “Kath and Kim.”

See You Next Tuesday… In Therapy

While I’ve been waiting for Netflix to finally send me the first season of “The Wire” so I can catch up with the rest of the world on that flurry of excitement – I’ve been watching HBO’s other hot but somehow overlooked show, “In Treatment.”

Airing weeknights and based on an Israeli TV series, it’s quite an experiment in television. Monday through Thursday we see different patients’ sessions with their therapist played by Gabriel Byrne, who occasionally and sexily lets his Irish accent out to play with a effortless growl. And then on Friday, we get to see his own session with his unofficial therapist played by the ever-squinting Dianne Weist. My own personal dislike for her aside, she’s quite good in this.

The real acting however occurs on Tuesday evenings when Blair Underwood portrays patient Alex (seen above). This possibly gay fighter pilot who accidentally murdered children in a school in Iraq is a powerful character, more compelling than any other I’ve seen on TV lately. Underwood and Byrne together on Tuesday nights is an acting tour de force. The other nights are good, but Tuesdays will be the ones up for Emmys this year. “In Treatment” is must-not-miss television.