Asks 'Did "The Sopranos" Kill Mafia Dramas?'


BOARDWALK EMPIRE BEGINS in Atlantic City on January 16, 1920, the evening before the implementation of the Eighteenth Amendment. Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi), the Treasurer of Atlantic County, stands before a crowded meeting of the Women’s Temperance League. He is every bit the model politician, first paying tribute to the branch’s chairwoman and then recounting his impoverished childhood, ravaged by his father’s alcoholism. The crowd hangs off his every word, the camera panning over their tearful faces as they gasp and look on in sympathy and admiration. Nucky delicately takes his leave — not before offering support for women’s suffrage — with an assertion that, “Prohibition means progress.”

Outside the meeting, Nucky’s driver and understudy Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) marvels at the harrowing tales divulged on stage. Nucky shakes his head with a wry smile as he climbs into his Rolls Royce. “The first rule of politics,” he reminds Jimmy, “is to never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” The yarns he has spun for the meeting are certainly more story than truth, but the phrase’s wider meaning becomes clear as the engine starts and the car drives off. From the chastity of the Women’s Temperance League — envisioning a teetotal society standing to moral attention — we cut to the Atlantic City waterfront, resplendent with flappers, brass bands, and copious amounts of liquor...

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