November 14, 2010
"You can't be half a gangster, Nucky, not anymore," say Jimmy Darmody to his boss Nucky Thompson. And that was one of the best lines from first episode that set the tone for BOARDWALK EMPIRE which is panning out to be a better drama for HBO than the SPORANOS.
The quote above comes form Nucky's protege played by actor Michael Pitt's emotionally wounded war veteran Jimmy Darmody, has been overstepping his bounds with the boss, Steve Buscemi's Nucky Thompson. In similar fashion,when HBO set out to make the series -- which on Sunday attracted 4.8 million viewers (7.1 million including repeats), its most-watched premiere of any program in six years -- it realized you can't make half a
That's how HBO came to hire Martin Scorsese to executive produce and
direct the 70-minute pilot and budget nearly $20 million for it. Considering how good the series, HBO will spend over a billion dollars by the time the franchise comes to a close.
The subsequent 11 episodes now in the can -- they push the story, largely set in a carefully re-created boomtime Atlantic City, across nine months of 1920 beginning with the opening night of Prohibition -- averaged about $5 million to shoot. With the first ratings in, HBO was quick to order a new season, leaving the number of new shows unspecified (but very likely 12, matching the current cycle).
"Empire" showrunner and series creator Terence Winter ran with the show's premise at HBO's behest after executive producer Mark Wahlberg, tuned in with Scorsese since they made 2006's "The Departed," recruited the filmmaker.
Winter is best known for playing accomplished second fiddle to "Sopranos" creator David Chase -- and for that mysterious fade-to-black ending; was Tony really whacked to the strains of Journey in that diner?-- and he and Scorsese spent more than a year with two teams of writers developing "Empire" from Nelson Johnson's nonfiction book, "Boardwalk
Empire: The Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City." He was more than content to step back when Scorsese agreed to make the pilot and stay aboard.
The series is sure to deliver big both financially and with audineces.