Boardwalk Empire

HBO’s new series Boardwalk Empire started yesterday. HBO needs a new, solid crime series. In the hey day of HBO we had Sopranos AND Six Feet Under AND Deadwood AND Rome AND Carnival… when Sopranos and Six Feet Under wrapped, HBO was left with this void. Rome, while wonderful, had but two seasons. Deadwood three. HBO got a few shows right (we like Big Love) and it showed the Wire, but it fumbled the ball badly on others. True Blood started and found its voice in the second season — although it is a bit in trouble of adding too many wacky supernatural groups and getting too goofy.

The oomph lately, though, has been going to AMC and Showtime. What HBO needs is a Sopranos replacement.

I’m not certain Boardwalk Empire is a full-on Sopranos replacement but it has the potential to be something interesting. It’s crime and mob crime but its different mob crime. It’s historical set piece mob crime. Prohibition was just ratified, crime is about to explode, and no one has really gotten rolling yet. The show is about the power and money scramble under the new rules — because where someone would once pay .15 for a glass of whiskey they’ll now pony up $3. Steve Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson is compellingly slimy without being an over the top scene chewing villain. It’s beautifully rendered. The costuming is phenomenally well done and clearly trying to give Mad Men a run for the money for its picky period details.

It has that slow build all these HBO shows have where it spends the first three episodes laying down all the groundwork and exposition before picking off characters. It has some solid mobster violence. It’s a bit more like Rome than the Sopranos — it feels like it needs historical Pop-Up Video with little bubbles and arrows to tell me who each character is and how they work into the scene. I wanted a THIS IS CICERO!!! for Rome and I needed a THIS IS LUCKY LUCIANO!!! pointer in one of the dinner scenes.

Our main concern is that Stephen Graham’s Al Capone has the potential to overshadow Steve Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson and we want the focus of the show to be on Atlantic City instead of Chicago. (Eric said he would totally watch a spin-off of Stephen Graham’s Al Capone’s rise to power, though.) Vincent Piazza’s Lucky Luciano didn’t stand out for me which is for the best — again, I’m afraid the camera will move to New York when we want it in New Jersey.

It’s Rome meets the Mob. I like it, but I’m not attached to it the way I am True Blood — but True Blood started kinda dumb, too. (It’s still kinda dumb, but that’s another story.) The first episode, although a bit slow with all the ground building and exposition, was by far good enough to not only earn itself a second episode but a first season. Yeah, I’ll come back and watch it.

Remember: it took a full season before we got the utterly magnificent second season of the Sopranos so I’m willing to give it the full 13 episodes.

2010 Emmy Nominations

A couple of quick notes on the 2010 Emmy Nominations:

1. Yay for Jim Parsons who plays Sheldon Cooper on Big Bang Theory!

2. Eric will be happy that his new true love, Adventure Time, was nominated for outstanding short-format animated program. Adventure Time scares and confuses me.

3. Is it just me or is the list of nominated shows heavy on the HBO/Showtime vs. AMC? I am not complaining — just the quality seems to be going away from the Networks. On the one side, we have True Blood and Dexter (the season with John Lithgow). On the other, we have Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Sure, a few other shows like Glee* and Friday Night Lights snuck in but looking over the noms, it is those four shows duking it out for all the Dramatic Awards. I haven’t seen Mad Men Season 3 yet — I am halfway through Season 2 — but I loves me some Mad Men so very much.

4. To amend my above statement, the networks seem to still be holding on strong to the quality sitcoms but have ceded the ground entirely on the half hour dramas.

5. I feel highly dubious about BEST HAIR awards.

* My Dad loves Glee.**

** My Dad is making a tactical strike on Katie and introducing her to Musicals. I’m not sure this is a good or bad thing, but she sure loves Musicals.

Goodbye, Treme

Having done a multi-year highly scientific study, Eric figures I can only keep track of two hour-long TV shows at a time. After that I wander off. For several years, I filled this with some high-quality TV — the Sopranos, Battlestar Galactica, various HBO Sunday Night dramas. I haven’t had anything since the end of the last season of True Blood, so I thought I would give the new David Simon show Treme a chance. He wrote the Wire. How bad could it be?

My limit are three shows before it is voted off the island. If I am not grabbed by three shows it is time to walk away. And, after three shows, and this is three hours of HBO TV and not broadcast TV, I could not say what the hell this show is about. I think it’s about New Orleans after Katrina? Sort of? A long time ago I read John Irving’s “The World According to Garp” and within Garp there’s a book that Garp wrote as a book within a book — except it’s boring as hell and I cannot for the life of me remember what the book within book is actually about because it isn’t about anything. It’s kind of like that. Bwah! I was complaining last night that I was trapped in a Norman Mailer novel with no way out except screaming myself to insanity.

It’s not that Treme is bad. It’s merely deathly boring. It is one of the dullest shows I have ever seen. After three hours of television I am not certain about the names of the characters but they seem to have very full lives doing nothing but wandering around in various states of upset. It has one or two plotlines that might be interesting but they are on screen for 5 minutes an episode while the show cuts away to (admittedly good) music. Nothing develops except the “we hate people who come to help us because we’re massive jerkwads” plot — which might be true but it’s just not good TV. I’m pretty sure that by the end of three hours of Deadwood there had been some quality swearin’ and killin’.

I know the media snobs over at the Slate Culture Gabfest loved this show but I pour my unending scorn upon them for leading me astray. I am giving high quality HBO drama — one of the staples of my life! — the boot for, most likely, this season’s Dr. Who because it’s written by Steven Moffat, and he could write a show full of static and I would still watch it*. Why? Extremely good TV.  I want my brain to be filled with stuff, dammit!

To slake my TV lust I have a bunch of episodes of Breaking Bad queued up that I am guaranteed to enjoy. I just feel so guilty. How can I not like an HBO drama? One given a second season sight unseen? But it’s so boring. Maybe it gets a plot and I can check in next season. Or something.

Goodbye, Treme. You were lame.

* I love Coupling. Irrationally.

More Olympics!

After the Worst Day Ever ™ yesterday, I settled in with a glass of Maker’s Mark — I was informed it is bourbon and not whiskey — to watch some Olympics stream online. I would watch it all on the TV except the TV was hosting Burn Notice, and one does not interfere with Burn Notice. Two points of great import:

A. Olympic hockey is the best hockey in the world and one of the few cases where the Olympic sport is better than the regular professional sport. It beats (just barely) the end of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Take the very best players from the very best hockey countries in the world and pit them against each other when they are rested and ready to go. This week’s games are hot and exciting. If you haven’t been watching Olympic hockey, watch the games this week in the run up to Sunday’s Gold Medal game.  Seriously.*

B. I watched several hours of Ice Dancing last night. This is the stupidest sport in existence and I watch curling obsessively — even when it isn’t the Olympics, so I know about stupid sports. The regular figure skating is cool because those people do things I cannot even imagine doing myself but a generic tango? They sort of skate in a circle and waggle their arms around for a minute and a half.

As advertised, the Russian free skate Aboriginal costumes truly were terrible even without the black face. That skate was better than the Generic Bland “Country Western Skate” that half the countries put up, and more interesting, but it was goofy and bizarre and… I have nothing. I did like the US team with their Bollywood skate. I know who already won but I haven’t watched the last round yet. I might/might not. If there’s hockey to watch, I’ll watch that instead.

Men’s Figure Skating was a throw down. Ice dancing was… so very blah. Bring on the Women’s Figure Skating so I can watch it with Katie.

* If, for some reason you don’t like hockey… there’s help for you at the International Hockey Conversion Center. We’ll get you help.

Winter Olympics

I got completely hooked on the Winter Olympics in Vancouver over the weekend. I owe this to NBC’s confusing but highly comprehensive site full of video replays and live streaming. Normally I get frustrated with the coverage — too many sob stories and too few events, too much if a USA focus, not enough death and dismemberment. I get through about a day of coverage and I walk away. However, with the online coverage I get sports I usually never would see, all of the qualifying and medaling races if the US is involved or not, and much less pablum.

I have watched snowboarding, skeleton, ski cross, slalom, high jump, curling, hockey, figure skating, and more curling. I have watched so much curling I may actually be getting toxic on curling. A few comments:

– If you have not watched Shaun White’s two runs on the snowboard half-pipe, you should watch his two runs down the snowboard half-pipe. If you watch nothing else, you should watch him get his gold medal. I’m not certain what a 1260 McTwist is but it is a thing to behold.

Ski Cross is the world’s most bizarre sport, a strange combination between skiing, snowboarding and motocross. I have been obsessively watching clips. The best one was where one guy — the French guy I think? — wiped out so bad he ended up in the hospital. This bolsters my belief that the Winter Olympics are based on drunken bar bets. “Yeah lets go do this horrible thing on skis.” “SOUNDS GREAT!”

Skeleton involves laying face-first on an ice skate and going down a mountain at 90mph. Why wouldn’t you watch this?

– The Russian guy was not robbed of a gold in figure skating. The US guy was better, and I’m not saying this in a ra-ra USA USA tone. I am saying this as someone who watched them back to back and the US guy was better. Also, Johnny Weir’s routine was too simple to qualify for a medal.

– Pairs ice dancing is boring.

– The Canadian women’s curling team is amazing. All the rest of the curling teams are made up of the four people in that country who had once looked “curling” up on wikipedia. That includes the US teams who are awful. Hilariously, the hockey fans were getting bored of blowouts in the qualifying rounds so they were coming over to rabble-rouse over at curling and the International Curling Federation was getting miffed.

– The US-Canada Hockey game last night was hard core!!!! WOOOOO! It wasn’t even the medal game! All these people who want to purge the Olympic hockey back to amateurs only are so wrong. Hockey players season over time. College hockey looks nothing like that game last night.