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by
Ed Driscoll

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January 18, 2012 - 12:45 am

Of course, changing Nucky’s last name and fictionalizing him also means that there are no guarantees that Buscemi’s character will live as long as his real-life inspiration. Boardwalk Empire is vaguely reminiscent of the quasi-historical conceit behind novels such as E. L. Doctorow’s Ragtime. Or heck, the Desilu production of The Untouchables, starring Robert Stack. Similarly, Buscemi’s character meets plenty of real-life figures, including, during the pilot, Arnold Rothstein, Lucky Luciano, and Al Capone in the early stages of their own extralegal empires.

Industrial Light and Whiskey

The 1920s was an era that was fascinated by new technologies – mainly because they were emerging so quickly, even though much of America in the 1920s was still rural and underdeveloped. But the 1920s saw Lindbergh reach Paris in a one-man airplane, the birth of the first commercial radio networks (the direct predecessors to the Big Three TV networks), and Hollywood reach international prominence, albeit through silent movies. At least in the episodes of Boardwalk that I’ve watched, there haven’t been any nudges to the viewer’s ribs along the lines of Mad Men’s Joan warning Peggy “Now try not to be overwhelmed by all this technology. It looks complicated, but the men who designed it made it simple enough for a woman to use” – while pulling the dustcover off of an IBM Selectric typewriter.

In contrast to the simple technology of the era it portrays, the technology to produce Boardwalk Empire is monumental in comparison. The actual boardwalk set is a 300-foot long set built on an empty lot in Brooklyn. But the buildings constructed for the show are only a couple of stories high, just enough to photograph the actors walking past them. Everything above the storefronts is greenscreened in, including the billboards of the era. The Atlantic Ocean, which Nucky looks wistfully into from time to time in the pilot, is a digital effect as well.

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