HBO dramas Boardwalk Empire and Treme are now both slated for their third season premiere dates. Both will run on Sundays this fall – Boardwalk debuts on September 23rd at 9:00 while Treme follows one week later in the 10:00 slot.
The two series are similar in some ways: they are rich with characters and star studded casts, costumes and cultural and musical elements, and are trying to say something about a unique time and place in the United States (Prohibition in Atlantic City, New Jersey and post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans).
And while both series, in the fine HBO tradition, deserve credit for specific things such as production value, they are headed in opposite directions in many ways.
Boardwalk Empire has distinguished itself as one of the great crime dramas of our time. While watching Season Two, I remember thinking that during a scene involving Al Capone (Stephen Graham), Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza) and Meyer Lanksy (Anatol Yusef), completely absorbed in the story, that these real life infamous gangsters had become "real" within the world of the show. Nucky Thompson's (Steve Buscemi) conflict with Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) was taut and wrenching, and all of this happened within a dazzling portrayal of Jersey Shore life circa the Roaring Twenties of a century ago.
Meanwhile, I laid out my views about why Treme failed to live up to its promise last summer. The highlights include the departure of John Goodman, a lack of story momentum overall or with many characters in its enormous cast, overly long musical and party montages (and I love me a good party montage!). To sum up: "It’s kind of boring, is what it is."