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Season One: The First Trip Down the Boardwalk


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#1

TWoP Howard

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Posted Dec 15, 2010 @ 8:58 AM

Now that the season is over, what were your impressions of it as a whole? Did it deliver the goods we were promised? For me, it did. I was most impressed with all of the nuanced characters the show created. Many of them are very likable, but they all have their flaws, aside from the fact that many of them are criminals.

I also enjoyed how well the show evoked the era, and how the end of the war affected society at the time. That wasnít something I was expecting, but itís one of my favorite parts of the show. I also find myself comparing the events of the times to issues of our time, but for the most part I donít think the show has hit me over the head with those comparisons.

#2

stillshimpy

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Posted Dec 15, 2010 @ 9:28 AM

I agree, Howard, I think the show delivered a really strong season. When I look at the scope of what the first season had to accomplish, I'm really impressed with how well it did. I don't think the season was one for the record books, but it was incredibly solid.

Having to recreate an era that is just distant enough to feel a little dusty in the imagination had to be a daunting task all by itself. Trying to invest that with living, breathing life and a strong pulse had to have challenges. Just small things like conveying how primarily undeveloped areas that are now packed was one thing, but having to take that action to Chicago and give it a different flavor was a pretty big task. I think they did really well with the period setting.

Then since most of us associate Prohibition with an almost eye-rolling association, "How the hell did they ever think that was going to work?" there was that hurdle too. How to take what failed, and convey it in a way that both acknowledges that (you can't stop vice through control measures related to supply, people will find a way) without making it seem a wholly foolish endeavor. On that last I think they did the weakest job. Our main view into Prohibition has been through Van Alden, who is a crazy freaking zealot, so making Prohibition seem an even vaguely reasonable thing to undertake wasn't something the season did as well as it might.

Still, introducing a large, varied cast. Attempting to give depth to characterizations and a bygone era? Really well done. Plus, the diversity in female characterization was really a lot stronger than I thought it would be going in. If I had one misconception about this series it's that I thought it was primarily going to be a story about the men of the times. That was a really nice surprise, that the female characters were varied, and don't just exist as dramatic props to the male characters. More background would have been nice, but I did feel that this was a particularly strong area.

The weakest area for me was the use of Lucy's character. She seemed to have the emotional depth of a puddle and primarily existed as a character to carry the HBO banner of nudity. Nudity is cool and all but if I had to sum up her characterization in just a few words those would be, "Naked. Dim. Naked some more. Mean. Naked again? Sheesh."

On the one hand I do think that modern audiences have something of a tendency to believe that sexual freedom is only the realm of the modern age, like something we invented, and that's just not the case. Literature from the period tends to adhere more towards the pretense of societally approved morality but people have always figured out ways to get down and dirty. So maybe that was necessary. I just wish they hadn't made her so darned stupid.

ETA: One other thing occurred to me and it is a negative. I found the inclusion of Al Capone to be unnecessary, and rather uninteresting. Don't get me wrong, the actor was incredibly good with what he was given. I really think he did stellar work and managed to add some believable layers to a standard issue thug but I really felt like the only reason he was in there was to add a highly recognizable name. I guess I shouldn't complain too much, at least we didn't have someone floating by, claiming to be Elliot Ness.

Although, honestly, for all the unexpected props I'm willing to hand out on the women characters only a couple of male characters rose beyond the level of near caricature; Nucky and Jimmy, arguably Chalky considering the amount of screen-time he got. Richard Harrow went over big and the actor, again, rose above rather thin material. So those were all good but the Commodore, Eli, the brothers and Doyle are some good examples of what didn't work. I think that goes to the scope of the project, though.

Edited by stillshimpy, Dec 15, 2010 @ 9:51 AM.


#3

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Posted Dec 15, 2010 @ 11:17 AM

In my opinion Boardwalk Empire was the best, new show of the year and I would argue the best show currently on television so it definitely exceeded my expectations. I like to think I know a little more about history than the average person but even I had no idea about certain WWI veterans having to wear masks because of their injuries so the character of Richard Harrow was especially appreciated by me. I also like how the era and particurlarly people's attitude about Prohibition wasn't romanticized.

The weakest area for me was the use of Lucy's character. She seemed to have the emotional depth of a puddle and primarily existed as a character to carry the HBO banner of nudity. Nudity is cool and all but if I had to sum up her characterization in just a few words those would be, "Naked. Dim. Naked some more. Mean. Naked again? Sheesh."

While I hope and think we'll get more of Lucy's backstory next season I do think she served more of a purpose than just providing the required T&A. I think we learned more about Nucky by knowing Lucy and contrasting her with Margaret. I also suspect Lucy gives us a window into how Gillian acted and how things were for her early on before she matured and became the awesome person she is now. I will go further and say Lucy probably represents how most men viewed women at the time and she also probably represents the girls and women living in that era who internalized those expections and notions. I can see how a person was underwhelmed by her character but I think she's a very underrated aspect of the show.

#4

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Posted Dec 15, 2010 @ 11:35 AM

In my opinion Boardwalk Empire was the best, new show of the year and I would argue the best show currently on television so it definitely exceeded my expectations.


Now here I have to agree 100% with Bulldawgtownie.

1) Period correct. Loved the costumes, the smoking, the drinking, the debauchery.
2) Best acting on TV.
3) Fantastic writing. You can't sleep-walk through a single scene, or you miss the story.

Quite frankly, there wasn't one single thing I didn't like about the show. Well one thing: I'm pissed beyond belief at how poor the ratings were. How this show could only draw 1/3 to 1/4 what the Sopranos achieved defies the imagination. Absurd. It annoys me that the avg American viewer can't be bothered with intricate plots and in-depth character studies.

Come on America, grow up!

#5

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Posted Dec 15, 2010 @ 11:48 AM

I think BE really didn't hit its stride until four or so episodes in....many people have mentioned this before, and I have to agree: it took almost the first third of the season for the show to feel comfortable in its own skin, and reveal its potential for greatness. Personally, I didn't mind waiting; costumes, settings, music, etc. kept me enthralled until the plot took over, but folks like Mr. Boston Gal had no interest in hanging on.

Too bad - it's his loss, as I keep telling him.

Edited by A Boston Gal, Dec 15, 2010 @ 11:49 AM.


#6

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Posted Dec 15, 2010 @ 11:59 AM

I think we learned more about Nucky by knowing Lucy and contrasting her with Margaret. I also suspect Lucy gives us a window into how Gillian acted and how things were for her early on before she matured and became the awesome person she is now. I will go further and say Lucy probably represents how most men viewed women at the time and she also probably represents the girls and women living in that era who internalized those expections and notions.


I think you make a good point, bulldawgtownie about the contrast between Lucy and Margaret and what it says about Nucky. However, I do think they gave Lucy ample screen-time and never really expanded much beyond that. She was a present a great deal but overall didn't receive much development. I didn't get the sense that Lucy was repressing any greater desires, or sublimating a great depth of character for the sake of the time period's gender expectations. She wasn't simplistic merely because that's what the world required of her, she appeared to be rather limited.

Since she did receive a fair amount of screen-time I felt it was hitting the same note over and over. However, that's such a small quibble and characters like Margaret, or even the very mercenary Annabell -- who I think is a better example of women honing an image to get by -- were better examples. Admittedly, just saying that, that there were many different characterizations that reflected the times, is acknowledging how well the series did overall.

I like to think I know a little more about history than the average person but even I had no idea about certain WWI veterans having to wear masks because of their injuries so the character of Richard Harrow was especially appreciated by me.


I agree, this show did a better job of exploring the impact of World War I than almost any I can name. The only reason I knew about the need by some veterans to wear masks had to do with a throwaway scene in Chariots of Fire in which one of the characters (also a World War I vet) takes note of two other veterans, basically hiring themselves out as porters at a train station. But two examples in the course of some thirty some years of film and TV really underlines how infrequently the first World War is touched upon.

Edited by stillshimpy, Dec 15, 2010 @ 12:00 PM.


#7

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Posted Dec 15, 2010 @ 12:06 PM

Personally, I didn't mind waiting; costumes, settings, music, etc. kept me enthralled until the plot took over, but folks like Mr. Boston Gal had no interest in hanging on.

Too bad - it's his loss, as I keep telling him.



Hmmm, time for a new husband?? lol

#8

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Posted Dec 15, 2010 @ 12:11 PM

This season tried to encompass too much of the era. It seemed at times that BE leaned too far in the direction of "here's a show about America in the 20's" rather than being a story which happens to take place in the 20's.

It was least successful when the scope was overly wide --using the Angela/photographer couple storyline to evoke the Bohemian-artist scene happening in Greenwich Village, bringing in Harding's mistress for no good reason, and spending time far afield in Chicago with Torrio and Capone ( it was if 'Deadwood' had a "meanwhile, in Tombstone, Arizona" subplot).

#9

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Posted Dec 15, 2010 @ 12:15 PM

Hmmm, time for a new husband?? lol


Ha! Some differences in a relationship are good things, Doctor Harvey.

I do think that Boardwalk Empire was the best new show of this year. My heart belongs to Breaking Bad for the best overall drama but it is darned nice to have more than one thing to love in any given season. I definitely think Boardwalk Empire was the most ambitious project of the last few years and I was impressed overall with how well it pulled it off.

The other thing that came as a pleasant surprise was Steve Buscemi in the lead role. I love the guy as a character actor, and he's always good value, but I associate him with an entirely different kind of character. Buscemi did great work and proved me wrong in thing he had a specific type.

Edited by stillshimpy, Dec 15, 2010 @ 12:17 PM.


#10

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Posted Dec 15, 2010 @ 1:37 PM

It was least successful when the scope was overly wide --using the Angela/photographer couple storyline to evoke the Bohemian-artist scene happening in Greenwich Village, bringing in Harding's mistress for no good reason, and spending time far afield in Chicago with Torrio and Capone ( it was if 'Deadwood' had a "meanwhile, in Tombstone, Arizona" subplot).


I get that, but after watching the entire series, and then watching some episodes again since HBO is re-running the series right now, I think I see the method to the madness:

a lot of what happened this season in other places - like, Chicago - is setting the stage for Season 2.

Also, even though we know that the real character of Enoch Thompson is considered just a jumping-off point for the fictional Nucky Thompson, they still need to include some real world aspects (e.g., the way the two major political parties behaved, and where their political strength was concentrated - something that is almost totally opposite of the way things are in today's era) for verilissimitude (sp?) purposes. You know, "ripped from the headlines."

Or maybe it's more prosaic: some producer gave Terence Winter a note that said: a) you need to put some gangsters in that everyone will recognize (Al Capone, Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, Arnold Rothstein); and b) lesbians! It's cool now! And men like to watch it! (which is the corollary to the ubiquitous nudity we have seen this season).

Edited by Princess Louie, Dec 16, 2010 @ 12:14 PM.


#11

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Posted Dec 15, 2010 @ 10:42 PM

I loved it from start to finish, even if I sometimes had to be patient for certain plotlines to reach fruition. Buscemi was so good as Nucky that I was able to appreciate all of the other characters all the more. Michael Pitt as Jimmy was my favorite, and I wish he had gotten a Golden Globe nod as well as SB and KM.

Van Alden was not a high point for me. I just finished reading "Last Call", and he really doesn't represent what motivated hardcore "drys". Well, except perhaps in his aversion to people of other ethnicities. The Temperance League leader was more like it, and I wish we had seen more of her.

Kudos to the people in charge of music and costumes. Oh to be able to wear those clothes!

#12

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Posted Dec 16, 2010 @ 12:20 AM

Boardwalk Empire depicted the 1920ís in such a clearly authentic and still absolutely modern & accessible vision. (Mickey Doyleís accent aside) Probably the most realized and polished 20's gangster story since the actual black & white flicks of the time for me. With enough of the human drama of that age to keep it grounded and un sensationalized.

I canít believe they managed to keep it so consistent and methodical covering as much ground as they have this season. There are still unanswered frustrations, but no more so than any other series would leave.

#13

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Posted Dec 16, 2010 @ 1:22 PM

Van Alden was not a high point for me. I just finished reading "Last Call", and he really doesn't represent what motivated hardcore "drys".

That's because he isn't, as evidenced by the fact we saw him drinking a couple of episodes ago. I think Van Alden is one of the people out there who like being in positions of authority and telling others what to do even if it's contrary to their own actions.

#14

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Posted Dec 16, 2010 @ 4:36 PM

Well, I do think VA believes in temperance in principle; he just fell off the wagon. What I meant was that although religious beliefs played a part in the temperance movement, it wasn't so much religious fanaticism as a set of cultural beliefs that were closely associated with Protestantism as practiced in much of the United States. Prohibition and Suffrage were both tied to the Progressive movement, which I think they illustrated nicely early in the season. But I think you're right that VA enjoys being an enforcer even as he claims to be motivated by principle only. Still, he was disgusted with himself for drinking. Contrast that with Nucky, who had no problem celebrating Prohibition with the Temperance League ladies while all the while gleefully anticipating the money he would make by facilitating the flow of alcohol through Atlantic City. They showed all types, and I like that.

Edited by Scoutlet, Dec 16, 2010 @ 4:42 PM.


#15

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Posted Dec 20, 2010 @ 7:53 PM

By the last episode I was hanging on every word of what was almost always brilliant dialogue delivered by an incredibly talented cast. As for others, I was somewhat underwhelmed by the premiere but very happy I stuck around because by epi 3 or 4 I was really enjoying many of the characters and appreciating the portrayals. Nucky, Margaret, Tin Man, Chalky, and Gillian had me from the start. By the end, I was also interested in the plight of Jimmy, Nucky's brother (can't think of his name), and Van Alden (that actor is spectacular).

On the shallow end of the pool, I never had any problem with Lucy being nude in most of her scenes. Sure, they were gratuitous to some degree. However, over and above the fact that the actress has a magnificent body, I do think at least some of her bedroom scenes did have some purpose in telling the story. For example, her sex scene with Van Alden (perhaps the most graphic sex scene of the season) was very powerful and portrayed quite clearly how despite their physical intimacy, they were otherwise completely disconnected; VA's immediate shame and disgust with himself as soon as he was done was also quite obvious. I agree with a poster above that Lucy had a function in portraying what was probably the norm for a beautiful showgirl without much education in that era: get yourself a rich sugardaddy or. . .nothing. I don't know much about the actress's prior work, but I think her portrayal of Lucy shows some courage on her part and I find it effective.

Here's the one choice by the writers/producers/creators that I find a bit puzzling: Why the need to change Nucky Johnson to Nucky Thompson (when it is clear to everyone viewing that they are the same person), while it was not considered necessary to have characters named Lucky Lazzaro, Arnold Rothberger, Sal Capone, and Walter G. Harding, for examples? I'm sure many of the actions of those particular characters during this past season were not part of their actual historical records, and yet there is no hesitancy in attributing those actions to characters who share names with real historical figures. So what exactly was so special about Johnson, that made it so necessary not to confuse the actual person with the character that a name change was indicated? I don't assume that everything Steve Buscemi says and does in the series is something Johnson actually said and did, anymore than I assume the real Al Capone decided to take his work seriously after he attended a Bar Mitzvah.

#16

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Posted Dec 20, 2010 @ 9:02 PM

About the name change : this is just a guess, but I think that Winters wants to end the series by sending Nucky Thompson to prison in 1931, rather than Nucky Johnson's 1941 date.

1931 is when Capone gets sentenced to prison, it's when Luciano and Lansky organize the NY-NJ crime syndicate after the end of the Castellamarese war, giving birth to the modern Mob. 1931 seems a natural end to the story BE is telling.

By fictionalizing Nucky, Winters can change his fate.

#17

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Posted Dec 21, 2010 @ 1:51 AM

The weakest area for me was the use of Lucy's character. She seemed to have the emotional depth of a puddle and primarily existed as a character to carry the HBO banner of nudity. Nudity is cool and all but if I had to sum up her characterization in just a few words those would be, "Naked. Dim. Naked some more. Mean. Naked again? Sheesh."


The sad part is though in some ways Lucy is the most realistic character on the show, I have known waaay to many stupid mean bitches in my time. It would be interesting to see how the show keeps using her as time goes on.

#18

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Posted Dec 21, 2010 @ 6:30 AM

1931 is when Capone gets sentenced to prison, it's when Luciano and Lansky organize the NY-NJ crime syndicate after the end of the Castellamarese war, giving birth to the modern Mob. 1931 seems a natural end to the story BE is telling.


What always amazed me about Mobs is that they so often ended up killing themselves. Ponder this: Think about all the money these mobsters earned through their criminal actions. What was the reason to be bumping each other off? Bad enough having to fight the Feds.

Yes, I know greed played a major factor. But in just about every movie we've seen regarding mobsters, had these warring families found a successful way to "cooperate" with each other there surely would have been thousands and thousands of fewer dead mobsters. Stoooopid fellows! lol

#19

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Posted Dec 22, 2010 @ 6:24 PM

I stumbled onto this show by accident (since I don't normally watch HBO serial programming) the night it aired. I had missed the first ten minutes of the show, but I liked what I watched so much that I went searching for it On Demand the next day.

The period itself intrigues me, and I did like that, pilot aside (when they have to cram in a lot of exposition, and in the case of this show, violence and nudity), the show took care to create so many different characters (I'm not talking about actual historical characters) with diverse motivations for doing things. Some characters I understood better than other, but overall, they still added to my enjoyment of this show.

I can say that I actually started liking Michael Pitt because of this show. I remembered him from Murder by Numbers, and, though I saw that movie ages ago, I don't remember liking him then. In The Dreamers (since that I realized a few weeks back that he was one of the leads in the movie), I wasn't too impressed by his acting, either. I think he did well with the character of Jimmy Darmody in Boardwalk Empire, though. Actually, I think all of the actors did well with their roles, even Paz de la Huerta (though she could stand to stop with the slack-jawed thing she does).

#20

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Posted Dec 23, 2010 @ 3:13 PM

It's a revelation now to go back and watch the whole series from the start. The intricacies of the plot make much more sense on second, concentrated viewing. The character development is much more apparent when all the episodes are watched together as well. Even in the pilot, when she is still the downtrodden battered wife, there's traces of Margaret's intelligence and strong will that will become clearer in later episodes. Angela comes across better in the series as a whole than she does in individual episodes - looking back, you see she did stand up to Jimmy a few times and was more assertive than she seems later. The plot against Nucky by the Commodore, Jimmy and Eli is set up very subtly and gradually. Van Alden's decline from a tough and (by his standards) mentally competent officer to the loony mess he eventually becomes is quite moving. Watching all the episodes together even elicited some sympathy from me for Lucy, something I thought would never happen!

Also, on second viewing, I worked out how to play the Boardwalk Empire Drinking Game - take a drink every time Nucky says 'It's an election year!'

#21

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Posted Dec 27, 2010 @ 5:16 AM

I did the same thing -- watched the entire series over On Demand. Also, watching all the "making of" "intro to" etc. shorts On Demand helped me to understand the characters much better. There's only one thing I couldn't figure out (probably ff'd too far), but why did Sepso kill the witness? Did Nucky bribe him?

Edited by Dancin Queen, Dec 27, 2010 @ 5:16 AM.


#22

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Posted Dec 27, 2010 @ 2:01 PM

That was my assumption.

#23

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Posted Jan 6, 2011 @ 1:58 PM

Here's the one choice by the writers/producers/creators that I find a bit puzzling: Why the need to change Nucky Johnson to Nucky Thompson (when it is clear to everyone viewing that they are the same person), while it was not considered necessary to have characters

I assume TPTB needed more creative leeway with Nucky than they do with any of the other characters especially since Nucky is the main character of the series.

There's only one thing I couldn't figure out (probably ff'd too far), but why did Sepso kill the witness? Did Nucky bribe him?

Yes, the witness was the only thing that tied Jimmy to the hijacking/murders.

What always amazed me about Mobs is that they so often ended up killing themselves. Ponder this: Think about all the money these mobsters earned through their criminal actions. What was the reason to be bumping each other off? Bad enough having to fight the Feds.

IMO you can't have it both ways. What drives them to be the ruthless, sucessful mobsters doesn't allow them to share with others. It's like expecting a person who is running for President not to have an ego. Some may know how to keep their ego in check better than others do but if you believe you deserve to be arguably the most powerful person in the world then you have a very healthy sense of self.

Edited by bulldawgtownie, Jan 6, 2011 @ 2:13 PM.


#24

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Posted Jan 12, 2011 @ 6:01 PM

I just watched the entire series in one day on demand. I was going to pace myself, but when I got to the end of each episode I just couldn't stop.

Although all the cast do amazing jobs, it's been Buscemi that riveted me to the screen. Character actors really do make amazing leads when they're given the chance. Nucky could easily have slipped into the hackneyed trope of the Gangster with a Heart of Gold, but he fleshed it out so thoroughly that I forgot I was watching an actor.

I also found the female characters, on the whole, more varied than the men. There were times when I really had to stop and think and rewatch scenes before I could figure out which gangster was being killed by which other gangster on the orders of/to avenge/in spite of which other gangster. I was one step away from making a flowchart. On top of that, they cast women who had very natural-looking bodies and faces, not easy to do in modern Hollywood.

#25

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Posted Jan 26, 2011 @ 6:33 AM

Any info as to when Season Two will broadcast? Sorry if I'm asking in the wrong part of the forum

#26

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Posted Jan 26, 2011 @ 4:29 PM

Any info as to when Season Two will broadcast?

Nothing official has come out but I assume it'll be sometime in October just like last year.

#27

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Posted Jan 26, 2011 @ 5:08 PM

I was hooked from the first episode and spent the whole season raving about it to anyone who would listen. I'm the only tv buff in my circle, so I had no success but at least I tried.
HBO does so well on historical dramas (I still watch Rome about as often as I watch current running shows), so I wasn't surprised by Boardwalk Empire's quality. I know there were flaws but they never really turned me off. And having decided that Michael Pitt is gorgeous didn't hurt either.

#28

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Posted Sep 14, 2011 @ 1:57 PM

Just watched the season for the first time on demand. It has a lot of p'ints, as Mark Twain would say. I was a bit underwhelmed by the season finale. Maybe there should have been a 13th ep, which worked OK for The Sopranos, till the last season, anyway, which needed 21 episodes.

Buscemi did a great job, but he's a bit miscast as a physical type, and too old to boot. The real Nuck was in his 30s in 1920.

Of course, if they jump ahead to the Atlantic City Conference in '29 in a couple of seasons, his age will be closer. I think that's a big reason they have Al Capone in it:

[wikipedia]The conference started off with a bit of an embarrassing incident for some of those invited who tried to check into the first hotel Nucky Johnson had them registered at. Johnson had registered them at the exclusive Atlantic City Breakers Hotel along the Boardwalk, which was restricted to white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, and Nucky had used proper Anglo-Saxon aliases for the guests.

(Ironically, in later years, the Breakers Hotel catered to a mainly Jewish clientele, becoming known as "The Aristocrat of Kosher Hotels".)

Once the hotel's management got a look at some of the guests who were trying to check in, the aliases didn't match the Italian and Jewish faces staring at the management and they delegates were refused admittance in to the hotel, the manager not knowing who he was refusing. By this time Johnson had heard about the problem and rushed over to the hotel to take care of the situation. Al Capone being himself screamed at Nucky Johnson for not making the proper arrangements and a loud argument ensued between the two gangsters while the others watched and hoped they would not come to blows. Suddenly Johnson who was taller and heavier than Capone shoved him into a limousine and ordered every one to follow him. They headed for the Ritz-Carlton and Ambassador Hotels and when Capone reached the hotel he ripped several framed paintings and photos off the walls of the hotel and started to throw them at Nucky Johnson. The others concentrated on keeping Al Capone calm and quiet for the time being.[/wikipedia]

Looking forward to this!