TV Recap: The Making of the Mob: New York, ‘The Education of Lucky Luciano’ (Series Premiere)

Written by Aaron Sarnecky



The first episode of this eight-part mini-series chronicles Charles “Lucky” Luciano’s (Rich Graff) rise to prominence in the New York City criminal underworld during the early 20th century. Starting from humble beginnings as an Italian immigrant, Luciano forges partnerships with Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel (Jonathan C. Stewart), Meyer Lansky (Ian Bell), Frank Costello (Anthony DiCarlo), and other notorious gangsters.

I’m reviewing another mini-series? You bet.

Ian Bell as Meyer Lansky, John Stewart Jr. as Bugsy Siegel, Rich Graff as Lucky Luciano, Anthony DiCarlo as Frank Costello and Craig Rivela as Vito Genovese - Making of the Mob _ Season 1, First Look - Photo Credit: Lawrence French/AMC
Ian Bell as Meyer Lansky, John Stewart Jr. as Bugsy Siegel, Rich Graff as Lucky Luciano, Anthony DiCarlo as Frank Costello and Craig Rivela as Vito Genovese – Making of the Mob _ Season 1, First Look – Photo Credit: Lawrence French/AMC

It’s very apparent how different this show is right off the bat. Until recently, I thought that it was going to be a lot like Texas Rising, which is a dramatized version of historical events that is otherwise indistinguishable from any other drama on television. The Making of the Mob: New York is structured more like something you would see on the History Channel (other than Texas Rising, of course); it has narration and knowledgeable people chiming in from time to time. These people include historians, as well as famous people from New York like former mayor Rudy Giuliani and actor Chazz Palminteri. The majority of the show includes dramatized segments with voiceover by Ray Liotta (who’s once again out to prove that he doesn’t just do tequila commercials).

To the credit of the show, its dramatized bits are of better quality than most of the ones you’ll find on the History Channel and similar networks. All the sets look appropriate and have plenty of extras. There’s no cheap green screen work here. There’s admittedly not much standout acting going on, but it’s as good as it needs to be. The action flows a lot faster than it could if it was structured like a scripted series (even if, ironically, there are one too many shots of people walking in slo-mo). This avoids the sluggish pace of the two other historical shows on TV right now, Aquarius and Texas Rising. In fact, this is really what Texas Rising should’ve been like. But I digress.

Photo Credit: Lawrence French/AMC
Photo Credit: Lawrence French/AMC

As far as what actually happens during the premiere, it’s pretty interesting if you don’t know all that much about the mob. Normally, Chicago gets a lot of attention with Al Capone, but he’s only going to be a minor character in this. Lucky Luciano is a much more interesting character, given that he elects to work with people other Italians would not do business with, namely Jews. Another thing that stands out about Luciano is that he’s not overly sadistic. He’s violent, yes, but he takes no pleasure out of killing. He’s already well into his career before he personally kills anyone.

To be honest, it’s kind of difficult to say much else about this show. Whereas in your general scripted series you can object to how a character acts in a situation, how they act in this show is generally accepted as fact, so there’s really no arguing against it. But whether or not what actually happened is entertaining is another story. And as it goes for the premiere, there are some good moments in which Luciano makes both shrewd decisions and terrible mistakes. And while it deals with things like prohibition, which we all pretty much know about, the focus is more on the relationships that Luciano builds.

What you get out the show, however, boils down to how much you enjoy hearing about history. If you’re expecting some detailed rise to power story like Breaking Bad, you won’t find it here. But if you are intrigued by the idea that this stuff actually happened, then you’re in the right place, even if this show might not be (on AMC, that is). As for me personally, I definitely want to carve out some time to watch more.




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  1. […] The Making of the Mob: New York, which aired last summer on AMC, was an anomaly. Though AMC started out very similar to Turner Classic Movies, we know the channel today for playing more contemporary movies and, more importantly, its high quality drama series. For AMC to produce a docudrama that would feel at home on the History Channel is bizarre. Even now it’s still a little hard to fathom. […]

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