Scorsese said he's been attracted to cable, specifically HBO, to make a foray into television because the medium is making long-form, narrative television that is "thoughtful, intelligent and brilliantly put together."
Broadcast television showed some promise in long-form in the 1960s, but that early promise was not realized in the 1970s and 80s, he told critics meeting in Beverly Hills. But cable offers that platform and Scorsese said that's why he's been tempted to become involved in television.
Scosese is executive-producing Boardwalk Empire, a drama series focusing on Prohibition era gangsters in Atlantic City. Scorsese called prohibition a "noble experiment," noting that during the time frame of his movie Gangs of New York alcohol helped nearly decimate a society. The show is based on a novel of the same name which is being adapted by The Sopranos scribe, Terence Winter. The creators said the drama is "90% factual," noting the lead character, Nucky Johnson, is fictionalized. Winter said he didn't want people Googling a real lead character and get distracted from the HBO story.
HBO will be employing a unique scheduling strategy with the drama, starring Steve Buscemi. The debut hour on Sept. 19 at 9 to 10:15 p.m. will be followed by two sequential encores on the same channel. The next day, the show will be roadblocked on HBO, HBO2, HBO Signature, HBO Comedy, HBO Zone and HBO Latino at 9 p.m. The scheduling is designed to guarantee maximum exposure for the high-profile series.
Scorsese has directed the first episode, and he told critics, via satellite, that he'd like to direct more episodes, schedule-permitting.
Buscemi, a reliably excellent secondary character in many quality films and TV shows, said having a lead role has been a wild dream.
Given the ambivalence about the ending of Winter's last series, writers snarkily asked if the writer has thought about the ending for THIS show.
Winter could only say that he'd probably come up with a clever response in the lobby.