Binge Guide

Weekly Binge: Boardwalk Empire

by | July 23, 2014 | Comments

What better time to binge-watch a show than right before its final season? With an award-winning pilot directed by Martin Scorsese, once Boardwalk Empire hooks you, it never lets go.

Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire

What’s the premise? At the dawn of Prohibition in 1920, Atlantic City treasurer Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi) finds a new way to make a quick buck — bootlegging. Not one to do things on a small scale, Nucky builds a criminal empire that stretches from the shores of Atlantic City to Boston, New York and even Chicago — leaving piles of bodies, stacks of cash, wrecked lives, and bottles of booze in his wake.

What’s it like? It lives up to its HBO pedigree with lush sets, rough language, gratuitous nudity, and jarring violence, during a pivotal time in American history. The pilot takes place during the first year of Prohibition, with women fighting for the right to vote. It’s as if you mixed The Great Gatsby and The Untouchables — but threw in a bit more naked Steve Buscemi (and ladies).

Where can I see it? Seasons one through three are available on Amazon Instant Video, Vudu and iTunes. All four seasons are available on HBO Go, Blu-Ray, and DVD as well.

How long will it take? The pilot episode of Boardwalk Empire clocks in at 73 minutes, with each of the subsequent 47 episodes having an average run-time of 53 minutes. Most episodes are gruesomely violent — it earns its TV-MA rating — so depending on your tolerance, you might need to pace yourself. If you’re really determined and don’t mind a good bloodbath, you can do one season a weekend and watch the whole thing in a month — plenty of time to catch up before its final season airs on September 7.

What do the critics think? Critics were wowed by the first season of Boardwalk Empire, with Heather Havrilesky of Salon raving “Boardwalk Empire presents a TV program that’s so polished and beautifully executed, each episode feels as rich and memorable as its own little Scorsese film.” Even its lowest rated season — season two — is 85 percent on the Tomatoemeter. Most critics agree that Boardwalk Empire is a slow burn that requires patience, but often pays off big. Andy Greenwald of Grantland said of the season four finale, “I can safely say the season of Boardwalk Empire that ended last night was, by far, its best.”

Why should I watch this? With a strong ensemble cast, Boardwalk Empire is anchored by a career-defining lead performance from cult favorite Steve Buscemi. Also, Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) displays more emotional depth with half a face than many actors can with their whole body. Boardwalk Empire is the entire package: terrific writing, great acting, lush sets, fine camerawork, humor, romance, violence, drama, hot people doing bad things, not-so-hot people doing bad things, and just enough hope that maybe not everyone is evil. Just don’t get too attached to any of the characters and you’ll do fine!

What’s my next step? Series creator Terence Winter and pilot director Martin Scorsese worked together on The Wolf of Wall Street and are currently filming an untitled pilot for HBO set in the music world of 1970s New York. For more Scorsese-style gangsters, check out his Certified Fresh 1990 flick Good Fellas. If you want something a little more period, try Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables, James Gray’s The Immigrant, Howard Hawks’ 1932 gangster classic Scarface, or Raoul Walsh’s 1939 prohibition-set film The Roaring Twenties with James Cagney. For more episodic gangster fare, try TNT’s Mob City, set in 1940s Los Angeles.


Did you stick with Boardwalk Empire since the beginning? Tell us why
!

For more TV news, visit the Rotten Tomatoes TV Zone.

Tag Cloud

HBO Bravo what to watch dc Reality Box Office Fox News biography First Look diversity Valentine's Day Disney Channel ESPN Drama E3 AMC cops Pirates Comedy war OWN TNT Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Countdown Ghostbusters E! thriller Fall TV YA TCM TIFF Polls and Games Oscars GLAAD aliens Watching Series sports USA Network cats PBS zombie NYCC Logo Best and Worst Esquire cinemax 20th Century Fox Musicals Writers Guild of America Character Guide Sneak Peek unscripted discovery History cults Biopics adventure RT History Summer harry potter romance Video Games IFC Lucasfilm supernatural MSNBC Netflix See It Skip It Trivia Schedule Star Trek CBS All Access Photos FXX DC Comics 45 El Rey Creative Arts Emmys Syfy Year in Review Western FX Animation Super Bowl political drama Interview Paramount Nat Geo The Arrangement SundanceTV Extras medical drama vampires WGN Pixar Lionsgate A&E Masterpiece Spring TV Set visit CW Seed singing competition 2016 Nickelodeon Mystery Pop CBS Acorn TV Opinion 2017 Starz MTV Trailer Paramount Network USA Fantasy Amazon ratings Toys Winners LGBTQ Emmys President Mindy Kaling Thanksgiving period drama Christmas Infographic CMT Tumblr Sci-Fi TruTV X-Men TCA ABC Marathons GoT composers Rocky Cosplay Red Carpet The CW Martial Arts ABC Family serial killer Hulu DC streaming service NBC VH1 Freeform Action social media talk show Marvel Sundance Now binge Spike Star Wars DC Universe cooking police drama CNN BET Warner Bros. Rock transformers BBC America Grammys TV Cartoon Network DirecTV Country Showtime IFC Films TLC crime Sundance PaleyFest Premiere Dates Teen Ellie Kemper Rom-Com Superheroes TCA 2017 Musical Sony Pictures travel Disney 007 24 frames Comedy Central justice league FOX SDCC GIFs Horror Universal Election Nominations Music Winter TV sitcom boxoffice Reality Competition technology TV Land Crackle American Society of Cinematographers golden globes Mary Tyler Moore comiccon Holidays Awards Adult Swim dramedy Britbox BBC politics Dark Horse Comics science fiction Comic Book spy thriller Podcast Certified Fresh VICE dceu ITV crime drama crime thriller 2015 21st Century Fox APB TBS Food Network psycho Calendar Kids & Family historical drama Lifetime Tomatazos docudrama based on movie