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Boardwalk Empire Reviews: What Are the Critics Saying?

Mark Wahlberg and family

Mark Wahlberg and family attend services in Beverly Hills

Mark Wahlberg was spotted yesterday with wife Rhea Durham and their kids attending Sunday services in Beverly Hills. Praying for great ratings and reviews for Boardwalk Empire which premiered on HBO last night perhaps? Wahlberg serves as a producer and probably hopes the show is a mega-hit like his brainchild Entourage. Well, here’s what the critics are saying about the pilot episode, directed by the legendary Martin Scorsese, and the outlook for the series:

Time: The best new drama of the year, is the sweeping birth story of that myth, centering on Thompson (Steve Buscemi), the man who kept Atlantic City wet. It’s also HBO’s return to the field of big-budget, big-idea dramas it dominated in the Sopranos era — sprawling and violent, with a dark but clear-eyed view of history.

Entertainment Weekly: What bodes well for Boardwalk Empire as a weekly series is that this week’s debut is probably the least typical (the showiest, the slowest) of the episodes I’ve seen. The production becomes more sleek, emotionally complex, and sly in its subsequent hours. Is this show better than its important Prohibition-era gangster predecents like William Wellman’s The Public Enemy (1931) or Howard Hawks’ Scarface (1932)? No, it is not.Boardwalk lacks those films’ narrative momentum both movies put the roar in The Roaring 20s and Buscemi doesn’t possess the feral energy of Enemy‘s Jimmy Cagney or the brute force of Scarface‘s Paul Muni.

Baltimore Sun: The first episode began slowly, as each of the main characters was introduced. But Buscemi showed a nice combination of toughness, villainy and wistfulness — sort of an American Corleone. He’s a genius at making these combinations seem natural. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

CNN: So if you, too, have been aimlessly wandering the wilderness of the multiplex and feeling around in the darkness of nighttime television searching for that new organized-crime “something” to fill the void, ladies and gentlemen, the search is over. The TV gods have hereby granted us “Boardwalk Empire.” The hype has been building for months, and the previews all point to a groundbreaking alliance in storytelling. Terence Winter, the executive producer/writer of “The Sopranos,” and Martin Scorsese – who directed “Goodfellas” and “The Departed,” to name a few – have joined forces for this project, and the result is a period drama dripping in elaborate detail the likes of which television has not seen (AMC’s “Mad Men” notwithstanding).

The Guardian UK: Not quite the greatest piece of television ever made, as trumpeted by some American critics (that accolade may belong to episode seven of this season of Mad Men), but exceptional nonetheless in aspects large and small. And the most interesting piece of direction by Scorsese since The Departed. Perhaps episodic television, so drastically grown-up and intelligent of late, is somewhere he could flourish anew.

Did you watch? Let us know what you thought!

Photos: Pacific Coast News

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