Gangs. Street violence. Massive government corruption. Enormous profits from the sale of prohibited substances building huge criminal empires.
Scenes from the marijuana wars at the Mexican border? No! It was the “Noble Experiment” in legislating public consumption of an easily manufactured mood-altering substance used throughout human history, the National Prohibition Act that went into effect on January 16, 1920.
It’s going to be easy to find me on Sunday nights, because I’ll be parked in front of my TV watching the new HBO series “Boardwalk Empire.” The trailer looks unbelievably great, from the costumes and the sets to the actors and the script. In his role as Executive Producer, Martin Scorsese was able to command not only top talent at every level but an eye-popping $50 million budget for the series, which included the construction of a $5 million, 300-foot boardwalk set in a Brooklyn parking lot decked out with fully decorated hotel, theater and stores.
Scorsese directed tonight’s premiere episode, written by his co-Executive Producer Terence Winter, who also wrote or co-wrote 25 episodes of The Sopranos. Steve Buscemi stars as Nucky Thompson, a character modeled after Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, the New Jersey political boss who served as treasurer of Atlantic County, New Jersey during prohibition.
The series begins on the eve of prohibition. Buscemi as Thompson stands at the head of a long table filled with politicians and gangsters, and raises his glass in a toast:
“As you know, in less than 2 hours, liquor will be declared illegal by decree of the distinguished members of our nation’s congress. To those ignorant bastards! … We got a product a fellow’s gotta have.”
There could not be a more poignant time for the series to begin. And no, I don’t mean because True Blood ended last week, but good guess. The United States, Canada, Latin America and countries across the world are starting to re-evaluate the failed war on drugs, the vast criminal cartels it has enriched and the violence that has left 28,000 dead in Mexico alone since 2004. It appears that Scorsese and Winter have tapped into our collective consciousness and extracted a lesson from history that is right for the time.
We’ll be having a Boardwalk Empire watch party starting each week at 9pm ET, sponsored by the Just Say now campaign. We’ll have special guests and hosts, contests and a lively discussion in the comments that will hopefully be entertaining even for those who aren’t watching.
Join us tonight at 9pm ET as Just Say Now hosts the first Boardwalk Empire watch party.