Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Period Drama From Over Here and Over There

Whilst a sizeable portion of the British TV audience is still in love with Downton Abbey (I elected to jump ship after just one episode of season two) I've been lapping up the altogether more engrossing 'Boardwalk Empire'.
Steve Buscemi as 'Nucky' Thompson
At the end of season one, Enoch "Nucky" Thompson (Steve Buscemi) was basking in the glow of having helped usher in both Warren G. Harding (Malachy Cleary) as President of the United States, and Edward Bader (Kevin O’Rourke) as Mayor of Atlantic City. He also saw his mistress,  Margaret Schroede, played by the sublime Kelly Macdonald, return to his side after briefly leaving him when the full extent of his criminal activities dawned on her.
Meanwhile, as Nucky’s power and influence ascended, a clandestine arrangement between Commodore Louis Kaestner (Dabney Coleman - a great actor in shows like Buffalo Bill and The Slap Maxwell Story), Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) and, possibly least shocking of all, Nucky’s brother (and sheriff of Atlantic City), Eli Thompson (Shea Whigham) was being formed with the intent of bringing down Nucky and dividing his power amongst the conspirators. Keep up, there's so much story going on. By the time the second season starts, the plan is in full swing – and with Nucky seemingly none the wiser.
This is fiction but the kind that is confident enough to use enough truth to make the whole thing seem real. We've seen a young Al Capone, a young "Lucky" Luciano and we're promised a young Bugsy Segal in this new series. 
One of my favourite characters doesn't say a lot but everything about him says so much about this show.Jack Huston plays Richard Harrow – a former Army marksman who initially allies himself with Jimmy.  He's been horribly scarred in the war, so much so that he wears a tin mask over half his missing face, a mask that almost perfectly mirrors the flesh and blood half but is sufficiently tin to make him appear one of the creepiest characters ever seen on television.

Much was made of the 18 million dollar pilot directed by Martin Scorses but the series proper has grown and grown. It's enjoyed widespread critical acclaim, for it's look, it attention to historical accuracy - Downtown Abbey seems to attract more stories about its inacurracies then it does about its less than compelling storylines. As Nucky Thompson Buscemi has proved himself a highly watchable if unlikely leading man.

But a lot of the 'heavy lifting' on this show has been acomplished by writers, producers and directors who grew, if not cut, their teeth on The Sopranos. Producer and Writer Terence Winter adapted the novel Boardwalk Empire having been interested in creating a series set in the 1920s, feeling that it had never properly been explored before. Here the 20's really come to life. He's also joined Tim Van Patten, a regular Sopranos director who brings a confidence and visual style to the show that just oozes Prohibition USA. Boardwalk Empire is violent and sexy and mannered, we feel sympathy for characters who have no right to such emotions - that's how clever the writing is - and we can't wait to find out what will happen next.

This winter I think I'll strick with my Saturday night costume drama and leave the Sunday Night Downton Abbey to those who like their shirts a little more stuffed.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Richard,i just wanted you to know 'The Parcel of Dreams' is one of my favourite short stories.
    Absolutely loved it.