Good news, Nucky fans. Boardwalk Empire, the stunning HBO series centered around Atlantic City in the early 1920s, has been renewed for a third season. For the uninitiated, the story arc deals with the dawn of Prohibition and the resulting birth of nationally-organized crime. The birth, as we learn, was difficult. The gangsters groped around looking for inroads in the liquor business, cooperating uneasily with each other.

This show has proven once and for all that the television public will sit still for a thoughtful, considered rollout of characters. In order to do this, you need time, time to flesh out each character and present them not only as breathing individuals, but in tangled relationships with other characters. This is not easy in a medium that often brings in characters for the briefest of periods just so they can be killed off in a dramatic set piece. In contrast, Boardwalk Empire treats each character with care, even the minor ones, and reveals their intimate relationship with the overall story and with others. Only great writing can pull this off successfully.

And then there’s the acting. Nucky Thompson, Jimmy Darmody, Margaret Schroeder, the Commodore, Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Arnold Rothstein, Chalky White, Gillian Darmody, and all the rest of the principal characters are well-thought-out and played to perfection by a hand-picked cast. But even the minor characters ring very true. A young Meyer Lansky, Lucy Danziger, Nucky’s overwhelmed butler Eddie Kessler, Madame Jeunet, and especially Richard “Half-face” Harrow all score. Jack Huston as Harrow is truly a standout, stealing nearly every scene he’s in with his scary face mask and his unnerving presence.

Ten million people watch Boardwalk Empire every week. That includes the repeats and On Demand, but still that’s a pretty impressive figure for a premium cable channel. It tells me this show has struck a chord out there, a chord which will continue to resonate as long as the creators can keep the quality high. Let’s hope they do it for years to come.

How about you? What do you think about Boardwalk Empire?

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  1. Joyce Ann

    It preceded Breaking Bad.

  2. This series is so successful that the crime story is almost a ‘by the way’. Revelations about the political/social structure are woven organically throughout – woman’s emancipation, the Volstead act, political favor, graft & scandal – and no one is spared. This era is long overdue – it’s irresistible to meet a young Meyer Lansky & Al Capone before they garnered power. You are so right about Jack Huston as the Harrow(ing) character. Great deliberate unfolding and lots of semi-nudity. A fabulous spectacle. Who can resist. Certainly not me.

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