Last Tuesday Mild Concern talked its way into the VIP seating at Sky Atlantic’s preview screening of Boardwalk Empire, HBO’s new Golden Globe-winning drama set during the Prohibition era. It turns out it wasn’t that hard and we almost had the entire row to ourselves, goody bags and all. But this isn’t about VIP sections and getting free stuff, this is about reviewing a new TV show so that we can get into VIP sections and get free stuff.
To show we’re taking this seriously what follows is a two-person review; for once there is an actual “we” involved. Spoilers for the first two episodes ahead.
A lot of effort had been put into the event, flapper girls were everywhere and there was a small band playing endless tunes for the hour we were sat waiting for the show to begin. We’re not bitter.
He said: For a start, two episodes of Boardwalk Empire back to back, without a break is a bit of a challenge.
She said: We did get the title cards to show where the breaks would be. As it was though, it was intense.
He: Lots of violence, blood all over the camera. And how many boobs?
She: Eight sets. Well, one was a repeat showing. Not that I was counting. Except I was. It felt like, “Hello! We’re HBO and we can have as much (female) nudity as we want!”
He: Don’t forget the racism.
She: As if I could.
He: We had the KKK, black-faced minstrels, a “slanty-eyes” comment…
She: Some of it I can understand from a plot-forwarding, general scene-setting point of view – the attitude of one of the characters to his black maid was uncomfortable but telling.
He: Whereas the KKK were just in the background handing out leaflets.
She: I really hated the black-faced minstrels. The whole of that scene felt very musical theatre, in that a lot of concepts were being flagged up: “Look! Alcohol! Look! It’s the twenties! Look! Sexism! Look! Racism!”
He: And midgets. Twice. The midget boxing had no purpose. It was like Mad Men without the class.
Did you actually like the show?
She: I’m not sure. Objectively speaking, I thought it was good. The direction was fantastic, the plot is compelling and it’s very well acted. Set production was also impressive. But I didn’t like the majority of the characters and ultimately, it left me cold.
He: What it lacked was someone to root for beyond Kelly McDonald, who by the end of two episodes appeared to be prostituting herself.
She: Also, what decision-making process was behind casting a Scottish woman as an Irish woman? Celtic nations: they’re all the same?
I will say that I liked Buscemi’s girlfriend and manservant: they both cracked me up.
He: Would you recommend it to a friend?
She: With a lot of reservations. You?
He: If they’re not easily offended and have Sky. Which I don’t. Sky Atlantic in general though is very exciting. The cream of American TV.
She: Definitely – Mad Men, Six Feet Under, Flight of the Conchords and especially The Wire, which I think I was disappointed that Boardwalk Empire wasn’t.
He: I’m just disappointed I don’t have Sky.
Sky Atlantic launches on the 1st February with Boardwalk Empire. Then it just gets better.