Badfellas Abound in New Scorsese Empire

Paying a premium for Sky’s paltry HD service will seem worth it this month with the launch of Boardwalk Empire.

I’ve only seen the first episode, and merely in SD on a screener DVD. But I’m in no doubt as to how glorious the Martin Scorsese-directed premiere will look in HD come Saturday (Sky Movies, 8.30pm).

Believe me, this is one Saturday night special you do not want to miss (although each episode will be repeated after the 8.30pm Second Chance Thursday Movie).

US critics have sung the praises of this 12-part Prohibition drama from Sopranos scribe Terence Winter – and after its spectacular first-night ratings, HBO took the rare step of ordering a second season before airing the second episode (for which viewership dipped 31%, to 3.329 million).

Some have questioned the casting of Steve Buscemi in the lead, as an Atlantic City bigwig who thinks he’s untouchable in controlling the flow of outlawed liquor, but he fills the role perfectly and dominates every scene he’s in without overshadowing Empire’s environs.

At one stage, he tells his protégé to never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

If Boardwalk Empire has a weakness, for some it will be the extraordinary attention to detail – the sumptuous period accuracy — that occasionally hampers pacing and gets in the way of Winter telling a great story.

But if you have an HD TV and a Sky HD Ticket, you’ll revel in the drama’s visual splendour.

Sky TV is to be congratulated for recognising this and scheduling the series on Sky Movies rather than consigning it to the SD wasteland of its Testosterone TV (aka The Box).

Boardwalk Empire warrants not only the prestige of being on Sky Movies but also the HD showcasing it enables.

Credit to Sky again for bringing the show to our screens so soon — only two weeks after its US debut, making NZ one of the first international territories to air it (Britons won’t see it until early next year and there doesn’t appear to be an ETA for it yet on Australian TV).

Meanwhile, Boardwalk Empire’s US success coincides with plans to launch another Mob drama with a Scorsese connection, spun off his 1990 movie, Goodfellas.

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