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Boardwalk Empire Season One
Steve Buscemi, Natalie Wachen and Michael Kenneth Williams in Boardwalk Empire | HBO

This year started off right with the release of the first season of Boardwalk Empire on DVD and Blu-ray. This show is one of the many examples that the best TV has to offer isn’t available on cable anymore. HBO appears to be aware of the quality of this series, and the price tag for this DVD set matches that. At $60 before store sales or special deals, it is pricey for a DVD and average for a video game (people who play video games always get the short end of the stick.) Is this series worth your hard-earned dollars? Yes, my friend, it certainly is.

For those without an expensive cable package, Boardwalk Empire is the story of Prohibition Era Atlantic City (and a bit of Chicago). The “boss” of Atlantic City, Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi), wants to capitalize on the fact that booze is now very profitable and uses his criminal empire to smuggle it in. Things never go as planned for Mr. Thompson or the people around him, and season one is a complex web of bootlegging and political scheming. “Fascinating” would be an understatement to describe the events of this show.

Boardwalk Empire Season One
Kelly Macdonald as the lovely Margaret Schroeder in Boardwalk Empire | HBO

Even without all of the extras, I would highly recommend buying this DVD. The set has all 12 episodes of the first season in its uncensored and commercial-free glory. Each episode is about an hour long, and the whole season in total rivals the entire [amazon_link id=”B0026L7H20″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Lord of the Rings[/amazon_link] trilogy in length. In this case, you don’t have to sit through the underwhelming Fellowship of the Ring to get to the good stuff. It will take you a while to get through the entire season, and it feels good to pay for quality and quantity.

It is important to remember, though, that you aren’t just getting the episodes. If you are a fan of commentaries like I am, that equals another six hours of listening to the actors and producers give some good insight into the work behind this exciting tale of bootleggers and upper-class miscreants. Even if you don’t care for commentaries, this set also contains behind-the-scenes looks at recreating the Atlantic City of the 1920’s, the impressive detail that went into the sets, tours of the speakeasies in Atlantic City and Chicago, and some educational material on the historical happenings of Prohibition.

Boardwalk Empire Season OneI really can’t fault a DVD for trying to teach me something. My favorite extra feature was one that didn’t get a lot of fanfare but is still a genius addition, in my opinion. Each DVD has biographies of all of the characters who’ve been introduced up to that point in the story. Given the tangled web of intrigue and backstabbing that happens in this show, I must admit I needed this helpful feature to bring me back up to speed after taking breaks. Somehow, the biographies also manage to avoid spoilers, and I tip my hat to the person who thought to include them.

Cutting to the chase, I think you must own this DVD if you are a fan of Boardwalk Empire. And if you haven’t watched Boardwalk Empire, buy the DVD and watch Boardwalk Empire. It is one of the best shows on television today, and it would be a shame to miss out. A couple of close-ups of Steve Buscemi’s face might sound terrifying (and it is), but don’t let that stop you from experiencing some of the best that HBO has to offer.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Seriously, if there was anyone made for the role of Nucky Thompson, it’s Steve Buscemi. When I first heard about this series and even before I knew who was in it, I immediately thought that he’d be perfect.

    Great review, John. I watched a little bit of season one when it first aired, but then it got swallowed up by all the other stuff I was watching. Time to revisit this show on DVD. Just looking at the photos is making me drool over all the Prohibition Era decor, clothes, cars and everything else. Just gorgeous.

  2. I love BE,but I find it to be like the Sopranos – really hard to always catch every word and hard to keep the huge list of characters straight. But it is worth the effort. I am looking forward to the next season with great anticipation.

  3. Oh, dear! Not another first-rate TV series to follow! I’m already behind on Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Veep, Justified — and struggling to keep up. No wonder I rarely go to the movies these days.

    • I think that’s why it’s so hard to get invested in a show. I like to see if it has legs to move forward into a second season before I get all emotionally tied to it. Of course, I realize if everyone thought like that, no show would ever go anywhere. Except the reality shows, which seem to go on for decades no matter who watches them. Look at Survivor! Real Housewives! Amazing Race! The Bachelor! And The Kardashians just got picked up for three more seasons! Ack!

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