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Boardwalk Empire’s Twelve Most Gratuitous Nude Scenes (and Their Likely Rationalizations)

As HBO’s gangster saga ends its first season Sunday night, it leaves us with fond memories of brutal killings, careful period detail, and lots and lots and lots and lots of bare breasts and other extremities. In anticipation of the finale, we take a look back at the show’s most random of skin shots and provide what we assume were the network notes that led to all this flashing. It probably started like this: “Hi, Terry Winter? How are you doing? HBO here. Hey, so we’re loving the scripts for this new Boardwalk Empire series, but we’re thinking it could use more character development. Oh, did I say ‘character development’? I meant nudity. Can we take a look at some of the episodes and I’ll show you what I mean?”

Scene: Nucky and Mayor Hagen have a drink in the brothel while a ukulele player serenades them with “Japanese Sandman.” Who’s naked? The singer. Network Notes: “I like the ukulele. Nice touch of authenticity. She can play that thing naked, right?”
Scene: Nucky Thompson and his cronies visit a liquor distillery hidden in a funeral parlor and find a mortician working on a corpse. Who’s Naked? The corpse. Network Notes: “Take this scene in the mortuary: The script says there’s a corpse. Let’s make it a really sexy corpse. And no sheets — our Six Feet Under days are behind us.”
Scene: Lucy visits Madame Genet’s boutique and asks Margaret Schroeder to be her dresser. Who’s Naked? Lucy (Paz de la Huerta) Network Notes: “Margaret’s working at that French boutique now — which means lingerie, right? Let’s have a scene where Paz tries on something skimpy. And see-through. And before she tries it on, can she strip completely naked and wiggle around for a minute?”
Scene: Lucky Luciano visits the burlesque house to see Gillian star in a tableau about ancient Rome. Who’s Naked? Gillian (Gretchen Mol), seven other dancers. Network Notes: “How are we going to know he has sexual feelings for her in this scene?” “Well, we’re going to cast Gretchen Mol.” “Yes, but how can we make it really obvious?”
Scene: Jimmy, sleeping beside his prostitute girlfriend, awakens when Al Capone pretends to shoot at him. Who’s Naked? Pearl the tragic prostitute Network Notes: “So, are they having sex in this scene?” “No, they’re sleeping.” “But she’s a prostitute, so obviously she wouldn’t sleep with clothes on. That just wouldn’t be efficient.”
Scene: Lucy, in the bathtub, tries to convince Nucky to grow a mustache. Who’s naked: Lucy (Paz del la Huerta) Network Notes: “Sure, the bubbles could cover everything up. But this is HBO, baby! You know how NBC puts that little peacock in the corner? Just think of Paz’s breasts as our little peacock.”
Scene: Lucky Luciano, after having sex with Gillian, gets up to answer the hotel phone. Who’s Naked? Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza) Network Notes: “One of the female execs suggested we should throw a naked guy in there somewhere, just to even things out a little.” “Um, okay. Which cast member do you want to get naked?” “Doesn’t matter. Just ask for a volunteer. Tell him you’ll add a line about his horse cock.”
Scene: Lucy visits the boutique and tries to humiliate Margaret by making her strip. Who’s naked? Margaret Schroeder (Kelly Macdonald) Network notes: “Why hasn’t Kelly Macdonald had a nude scene yet?” “Her character is very proper, very modest.” “So use a body double.” “No, I said her character is very proper — “ “Right, and I said, use a body double. Next!”
Scene: After hints that Angela is having an affair with a boardwalk photographer, it’s revealed that she’s actually sleeping with — gasp! — the photographer’s wife. Who’s naked? Angela (Aleksa Palladino) and Mary (Lisa Joyce) Network notes: “Two girls having sex. Now that’s a twist! We should show, um — what is it exactly that lesbians do in bed? Touch each other’s boobs a lot? Yes, let’s show that.”
Scene: Self-flagellating teetotaler Nelson has a lapse of faith, gets drunk, and sleeps with Lucy. Who’s naked? Lucy (Paz de la Huerta) and Nelson (Michael Shannon) Network notes: “I guess Michael Shannon has to get naked for this one so we can see his scars, huh? Okay, well, let’s just make sure that Paz is even more naked.”
Scene: Jimmy sneaks backstage at the Café Beaux Arts to steal back the necklace he bought for his mother. Who’s Naked? Two showgirls en route to an Oriental tableau Network notes: “So we love this thing with the burlesque show. But the pasties seem a little modest, don’t you think? Let’s show a couple of the girls wearing something else on their nipples. Like, say, lipstick?”
Scene: In bed with Nucky, Lucy tries to convince him that she’d be a good mother. Who’s naked: Lucy (Paz de la Huerta), more or less Network notes: “Wait a sec, is Paz wearing clothes in this scene? That’s not in her contract! Okay, fine, she can have a robe this one time — just promise to open it really wide.”
Boardwalk Empire’s Twelve Most Gratuitous Nude Scenes (and Their Likely Rationalizations)