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Entries in terence winter (2)


In Which We Sleep On Nucky Thompson's Couch

Familiar Story


Boardwalk Empire
creator Terence Winter

You know what is a completely original idea I have never heard before? A woman in an unhappy marriage to a powerful man begins an affair with her husband's younger, attractive subordinate. The relationship comes about because of the ethnic connection between the two lovers. This general plot has never even been experimented with until now.

furio, your taste in fashion was unmatched by American men

Much of Terence Winter's Boardwalk Empire is a lot more interesting if you pretend The Sopranos never happened. (This is equally true if you have never seen Goodfellas or Casino.) There's actually a scene in Martin Scorsese's completely retarded blowjob of the Dalai Lama, Kundun, that I am completely reminded of every time I watch HBO's prohibition-era drama.

The potential child prophet is shown a variety of objects, some commonplace, other more valuable, on a woven blanket. Whichever object he selects, as in the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, indicates the likelihood he is a god returned to Earth to appear on Dr. Oz. (I believe roughly the same process was used to appoint Nancy Pelosi the speaker of the house, except the correct object in question was a needle filled with Botox.)

wait, someone might actually want to watch this guy. Let's exclusively give him scenes with Gretchen Mol. $$$$This reminds me of Boardwalk Empire insofar as the show's writers can't decide between a variety of individuals. There is an insane number of characters in Boardwalk Empire, actually over 100 of them, with 80 of those wearing an identical hat. It's difficult to know exactly who to focus on when you love them all the same. 

As a viewer, keeping track is exhilarating and discouraging, because whoever you do choose to invest in will likely end up bludgeoned by Bobby Cannavale or set on fire by Bobby Thompson. Both are unpleasant and humiliating, and make you wonder why no one was called Robert in the early part of last century.

so he decapitated a guy with a shovel, who hasn't done that?

Relatively safe from this merry-go-round of death is Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi). Nucky had a very difficult home life as a child, and tries very hard to be a good stepfather to the children of his wife Margaret (Kelly MacDonald). For some reason the fact that Nucky excels where his father failed does not really capture our attention the way that Tony Soprano's poor parenting did.

The writers of Boardwalk Empire can't possibly believe a few kind words outweigh the countless murders and the numerous infidelities Nucky implausibly consummated while succoring Broadway actress Billie Kent. Thompson was very nice to his girlfriend - she called him her gangster - but there is a hard and fast rule, in drama and in life, that being nice to someone who is going to die does not count.

Examining the weirdly sympathetic portrayal of Al Capone yields roughly the same feeling. The man who gave a bad name to so many Italian-Americans being presented as the heroic godfather and loving parent to a deaf child when he is basically their Osama Bin Laden leaves a terrible nausea in my sizable gut. It's roughly analogous to the disgust that rose inside me while I was playing Call of Duty: Black Ops II and terrorists blew up the USS Barack Obama. A sinking feeling. Get it?

Tommy, run

When I think about who I actually empathize with in Boardwalk Empire, my faith in people is usually destroyed within minutes of them garnering my favor. All the emotional reserves I placed in the Picasso-faced Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) were destroyed the moment I saw him in a liquor commercial and his countenance wasn't half exploded. Marlon Brando would have rather clawed his eyes out, and I think a lot less of Terence Winter that he did not insist upon it.

the president also smokes after a fresh kyll

I won't make any more lighthearted remarks about how disgusting I find the constantly topless Gretchen Mol. Such commentary is completely misogynistic and diminishes the righteousness of my jokes about Nancy Pelosi. At least Gretchen is trying. I even received a nice jolt in my Dockers when the only living Mrs. Darmody had intercourse with an unemployed man who intensely resembled her late son. The pseudo-incest represented a sweet moment, akin to when George W. Bush makes Laura put on a massive white wig before doggystyle.

My momentary engagement with Gretchen's plight vanished when she drugged and drowned this Jimmy-lookalike in her whorehouse bathtub as a means of getting her son declared legally dead. I have never known a woman who actually killed a man, and I have certainly never known an attractive woman who has done this. That's as close to a compliment as I can pay Gretchen Mol.

"You're going to buy me a wedding ring and fly me to Honolulu? YESSSSSSSS"

The death of Nucky's handsome bodyguard Owen Sleater (Charlie Cox) on last night's episode, due to the treachery of an Italian-Jewish coalition against the Irish, attempted to strike an ironic note. After Owen's body is sent to Nucky's home in a wooden crate, Margaret breaks down crying, recollecting the previous day when she told Owen she was pregnant with his baby. "Whatever you tell me next," she informs him before his passing, "let it be the truth." "I'm hoping it's a boy," he responds.

Despite our knowledge that this flashback presents Owen telling a fucking lie, he comes across as more human than he did during his entire run on Boardwalk Empire. Even a liar is endearing in the moments he's telling the truth. The disappointment comes afterwards.

Then, dreamy, half-amusing, half-tragic music sang him off. And now he looks like this:

Guess he promised marriage to some women in the Russian baths

The opening sequence of Boardwalk Empire has taken on a new meaning of late. Last night's episode took the discord between reality and fiction still further by watching American excesses flood the beaches of Atlantic City. Beachgoers rushed into the surf to claim bottles of whiskey floating in the water. Even if there never was a storm to later destroy that very boardwalk, this was metaphorical overkill. Using the past to say something about the present is inherently unfair. It's a dirty trick, the vain task whereby winners rewrite history according to their own impulses. Sure, Al Capone is still a disgusting gangster, and women weren't getting the diaphragms they justly deserved. But really, that can mean nothing to us now.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in an undisclosed location. He last wrote in these pages about the Showtime series Dexter. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

"Something In Between" - The Phoenix Foundation (mp3)

"If You Have To Leave" - The Phoenix Foundation (mp3)


In Which Gentlemen Remain Gentlemen For Some Reason

Long Long Ago


Downton Abbey
creator Julian Fellowes

Boardwalk Empire
creator Terence Winter

Downton Abbey returned last night. Not in America, because that would demand that American television executives had some idea of what people in their native country wanted to watch. Instead, on HBO, we were treated to a solid hour of Terence Winter's effort to prove he deserves some credit for The Sopranos. He achieved the opposite result, since it is now obvious to everyone that the only parts on The Sopranos he was responsible for were the boring ones, like when Tony was stuck in a dream for the entire fucking episode.

Judi Dench doing an American accent would have been lol but wtv

Here are some facts. If you plastered Shirley MacLaine's face on every billboard and bus in this country, they would have had roughly the same anticipation for her debut on Downton Abbey that I have been walking around with since 2012 began. I don't want to think about my country anymore; it simply makes me depressed. I want to think about when another country was slowly being torn apart by an elitism that would give way to an even more destructive socialism, not my own.

I'm a little tired of Margaret being suprised by everything. You're married to Nucky,
wipe that look of shock off your face lady

If you just watch Boardwalk Empire as a series of soundless still frames, it's one of the best shows on television. If you actually have to watch the pallid colors and characters weave and intersect, killing and destroying each other whenever they aren't at rest, it's a great deal more exhausting.

Taking screenshots of Boardwalk Empire is a lot more fun than actually enduring it. "Gentlemen remain gentlemen only when they must," Gretchen Mol croons. Do you know what this means? It's not that I don't think I'm capable of figuring it out, but why should I have to?

he wasn't the only one nodding off last night

When you kill off a bunch of characters on your television program, and one of them is not Gretchen Mol, you have some serious questions to answer. For example: how excited should you be about watching an entire season of men in badly fitted suits exchange packages of money and liquor?

Trying to find a place for your empathy to reside in this ethical morass is difficult. I would compare it to some current political situation, but that would slow down the number of rhetorical questions I plan to unfurl in this revue like so many overly clothed women. I have mailed them to Terence Winter in an envelope that included my head shot.

I was perfect for the part of Remus

Most of the Boardwalk Empire premiere takes place at a New Year's party at the home of Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi). It's a completely transparent effort to save on costs.

It's now easier to list what Boardwalk Empire isn't; it's the only possible way of figuring out what it is. Boardwalk Empire is not a satire or a parody. It's certainly not science fiction, except when it criticizes doctors of the period for not knowing much about prenatal care. It's not horror, fantasy, or pulp. It's not exciting, interesting or fun. It's not something you should try to enjoy, any more than, really, you should take pleasure in watching Italian men executing gentiles and Jews alike as if it were mere sport.

the sun never comes up in South Jersey

The show's primary new antagonist is Gyp Rossetti (Bobby Cannavale). Even he looks like he'd rather be anywhere else than in Tabor Heights, NJ, where there is next to no natural light. After he is refused a shipment of rum from Nucky Thompson, he gives his new dog to Nucky's wife. The promise of the dog's head showing up in someone's bed is practically implied.

Meanwhile, the only domestic drama we can really feel invested in is the relationship between the one-eyed saint who used to carry Jimmy Darmody's water and Darmody's mother (Gretchen Mol). Remember her? I was going to say, "Remember her before she was hideous," but after a quick google search, I realize that was never the case.

"Rounders" was pure shit in retrospect

British people just have a lot more practice at idealizing their own history. There were slaves in England; you just never hear about them. There was a Men in Black style mass forgetting at some Beatles concert in the 1960s and since then the topic magically never comes up.

I mean, who cares that the entire continent of Europe is willing to fill their eyes and ears with sand when it comes to the threat of Islamic fascism? (Rhetorical.) Look at this!!!

I always thought that Lavinia was a bit of a whore

When Sybil came back to Downton Abbey, I jumped up and down and clapped. The only time I did that on Boardwalk Empire was the end because I was so glad it was over. I'm considering a back tattoo that reads, "THERE'S A NEW FOOTMAN IN THE HOUSE."

The new Sybil casually brings up contemporary novels like Swann's Way in conversations about her riding horse. When someone mentions liking Theodore Dreiser she giggles and licks her lips. If she wasn't a gentile, she could be Leon Trotsky's mother. If my daughter ran off with a Marxist, I would have killed Karl Marx. If he wasn't alive at that point, I would have directed my anger at Aaron Sorkin.

the new Sybil is really into Rage Against the Machine

With that said, watching the magisterial Downton return to normal after the changes wrought by the first World War is strange. It's hard to savor the importance of weddings and arrivals when so many more important things were lost in that miasma of death. You almost want them to fast forward to the next war where we find a middle-aged Sybil and Mary shepherding Jews into a potential abbatoir below their sitting rooms.

For those in other countries, especially the U.K., the ups and downs of class warfare never completely lost their luster/lustre. Seeing them in their environment is pleasing to us; like watching through the plate glass in an aquarium. Part of the reason Boardwalk Empire has been more successful abroad than here is that it hurts so much more to be witness to our own foibles.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is the former vice president of the United States and a writer living in an undisclosed location. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about The Mindy Project.

"I heard Mary was giving it away, so I thought, why not get a piece?"

"The Undertaker's Daughter" - Seamus Fogarty (mp3)

"The Wind" - Seamus Fogarty (mp3)

The latest album from Seamus Fogarty is entitled God Damn You Mountain.

Arnold Rothstein, you beautiful little man