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Blu-ray Review: Boardwalk Empire The Complete First Season
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Boardwalk Empire Season 1 Blu-ray

Boardwalk Empire The Complete First Season
Blu-ray l DVD
CREATOR: Terence Winter
DIRECTORS: Martin Scorsese, Timothy Van Patten, Allen Coulter, More
WRITERS: Terence Winter, Timothy Van Patten, More
STARRING: Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Shea Whigham, Aleksa Palladino, Michael Stuhlbarg, Stephen Graham, Vincent Piazza, Gretchen Mol, Paz de la Huerta, Michael Kenneth Williams, Dabney Coleman
HBO Studios
RELEASE DATE: January 10, 2012

TV has evolved to exciting heights with the arrival and ever-thriving world of no-restriction shows. Shows that are on pay cable channels and can be as gritty and realistic as necessary to tell their stories, often times getting away with more than most movies can even get away with.

We the TV-viewing audience are in love with these types of shows, and though there are many great options out there on various channels, no one does them quite like HBO.

They’ve been in the original programming game since the ’70s (mainly with comedy shows and documentaries at first, which they still do a lot of today as well) but started the current hour-long drama craze with shows like Oz and The Sopranos, continued it with titles like Six Feet Under, Deadwood, Rome, and Carnivale, and keep it alive and strong today with True Blood, Game of Thrones, and of course, Boardwalk Empire.

Easily one of the best shows on TV today, Boardwalk Empire tells the story of many lives intertwined during the Prohibition era, focused mainly in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

It all centers around Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi), the county treasurer who’s as corrupt as he is respected (by those who know him and his ways, and those who don’t). Nucky knows that Prohibition only means that there’s a fortune to be made in the alcohol business, and capitalizes on it immediately. Of course, he’s not the only one to smell the green of money resonating off illegal booze, and many enemies are easily made…whether it be the authorities, other bootleggers, or even those closest to him.

One of the stars of the show is the boardwalk itself. No corners were cut in building a very real 300-foot set to shoot on, allowing them to combine it with blue screen technologies to truly deliver 1920s Atlantic City. Paired with the outstanding costume design and absurd amount of talent the cast has, fans of period dramas and others alike will be happily whisked away to another time.

But the real selling point to Boardwalk Empire is the stories. The writing team, the directors (which includes the great Martin Scorsese, who directed the pilot), creator/producer Terence Winter, and everyone else who come together to craft what we see on the screen each episode do a masterful job, and deserve every ounce of praise they receive.

And let’s not forget about the performances. Every actor involved with the show seems to be consistently firing off some of their best work. Even the kids are good! But special praise has to be given to a one Michael Shannon, who’s so good on this show it’s hard to put into words. Yes his character, Agent Nelson Van Alden, doesn’t emote a whole lot, but it’s that extremely stiff, almost robotic personality that makes the character what he is, and Shannon does it better than most anyone else could.

The only problem I have with Boardwalk Empire is how long it took for the first season to arrive on DVD/Blu-ray, which is only another compliment. The first season ended over a year ago in December of 2010 and we’ve been waiting all this time to finally see it again and be showered with bonus features. Even the show’s second season has already come and gone, but let’s hope we don’t have to wait quite as long to get our hands on that because, spoiler alert: it’s also fantastic.

The Academy Awards don’t hand out Oscars to TV shows like the Golden Globes do, but it’s shows like Boardwalk Empire that make a case for why those awards should exist. And if they ever do, Michael Shannon should get one of the first. To this point he’s never even been NOMINATED for an Emmy or Golden Globe or almost anything else for his work on the show, and this, my friends, hurts my brain to think about.

Everything about it is equal to or greater than the production quality of a motion picture, and it’s a perfect example of how much TV has evolved. I can say with great enthusiasm that it is in fact one of the best shows on television today and easily one of my personal favorites, likely to become an all-time favorite when all is said and done.


For those of you who have seen Boardwalk Empire and love it as much as I do, none of the above really matters much. All you want to know is what kind of special features does it offer and if the Blu-ray is worth your coin. The short answer is yes, yes it is.

Each of the show’s 12 episodes can all be watched with an enhanced viewing option on. This plays the full episode as it is, but includes short picture-in-picture videos of the show’s creators, stars, and others talking about the real history and book the show is based on, what went into the scenes and shots, telling stories about their experiences, and other useful bits of information to help enhance your experience for second or third viewings.

Atlantic City: The Original Sin City: A lengthy history lesson about the very beginnings of Atlantic City, how it developed into a tourist attraction before becoming THE place where stars where born and shows debuted, the Prohibition era, and of course the history of Nucky Johnson, the real life man that inspired the character Buscemi plays.

Speakeasy Tour: Basically a Travel Channel show with actors from Boardwalk Empire touring some cities that were supplied by Atlantic City during Prohibition and visiting various speakeasies. Greg Antonacci (who plays Johnny Torrio) shows us around Chicago, and Michael Stuhlbarg (Arnold Rothstein) and Vincent Piazza (Lucky Luciano) show us New York City.

Making Boardwalk Empire: A full-on making of feature that sets the whole show up, introduces all of the main characters, and touches on who they are and what each of them stands for.

Creating the Boardwalk: Just as it sounds, this one takes a look at the making of the above-mentioned 300-foot boardwalk set that was built for the show. It also looks at how they make the 300-foot set look like the boardwalk’s actual eight miles in length and the much taller buildings and ocean that surround it using blue screen effects.

Finally, you can also find commentaries and character dossiers.


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