Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season

Stunning BD boxset ensures that this crime series steals the plaudits

The home of The Sopranos is dipping its toe into the world of organised crime once again. Only this time around it has set its sights on Prohibition-era Atlantic City and its corrupt city treasurer Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson (Steve Buscemi). Add to that the presence of Martin Scorsese as executive producer (and director of the pilot episode) and it’s small wonder that Boardwalk Empire is the smartest and most compelling show around.

Picture: Unlike some other studios and distributors we could mention, HBO refuses to simply cram as many episodes of a TV show as possible onto a single Blu-ray disc. While this need to spread a show across additional discs pushes up costs, it also ensures that every show looks absolutely fantastic in HD, and Boardwalk Empire is as good an example as you’ll ever come across.

Spread across five Blu-ray discs, this handsome crime show looks positively resplendent in HD. Each of the AVC 1.78:1 1080p encodes is a thing of real beauty, highlighting the show’s lavish production values and maintaining a cinematic feel throughout. Detailing is impeccable across the board, colours are invitingly rich and there’s an impressive clarity and precision to the image that doesn’t rely on artificial sharpening. In other words, it’s everything you’d hope the format could offer to a TV production.
Picture rating: 5/5

Audio: While it doesn’t quite measure up to the image quality, Boardwalk Empire’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes are still extremely satisfying. Like the vast majority of TV productions, the vast majority of the mix is centred on the front of the soundstage. This is no bad thing though, as the nature of the drama means that it’s primarily driven by dialogue, and the crystal clear presentation and rich tonality is just exceptional.

When need be the show can also make effective use of a more spacious soundfield, creating excellent atmospheric effects for the bustling club interiors and the busy Atlantic City seafront. So even if it won’t win any awards for advancements in surround sound mixing, the acoustic quality is enough to ensure that it’s the perfect compliment to its incredible visuals.
Audio rating: 4/5

Extras: Six of the twelve audio episodes feature commentaries by various members of the cast and crew (but not Scorsese, sadly, even though there is one for his episode) and there’s also a character guide and the usual behind the scenes featurettes (Atlantic City: The Original Sin City, Speakeasy Tour, Making Boardwalk Empire and Creating the Boardwalk). But the real surprise is the excellent Enhanced Viewing Mode available on each episode. This interactive picture-in-picture mode delivers interviews with the show’s creators, cast and crew, historical facts about the people and places featured in the show, location information and even complete versions of some of the period songs featured in the show.
Extras rating: 4/5

We say: It would be a crime not to rush out and buy this Blu-rayboxset

HBO, All-region BD, £50 approx, On sale now