The New Fall TV Season: "Boardwalk Empire" on HBO

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Don’t fret if you missed the premiere episode of Boardwalk Empire. First, it’s on HBO, which means it will be repeated a gazillion times. More importantly, it will be around for a long, long time. After snagging nearly 5 million viewers (the largest rating of its kind for HBO in six years), it has already been renewed for a second season.

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It’s possibly the best looking show in prime time. But with Martin Scorcese behind the camera for the premiere, would you expect any less? Boardwalk Empire, based on the bestseller of the same name by Nelson Johnson, is a gangster drama set in Atlantic City at the dawn of Prohibition. The first episode takes place in the hours just before the 18th Amendment goes into effect.

“A toast,” shouts Enoch Thompson (Steve Buscemi). “A toast to the U.S. Congress. Those beautiful, ignorant bastards. Rest assured, that dry though the country may be, I am in the midst of concluding arrangements that will keep Atlantic City wet as a mermaid’s (expletive).” There is as much violence as there is sex (and there’s plenty of both).

The show is abundant in authentic sets and costumes and it liberally sprinkles historical figures among the fictional characters. Names like Capone, Luciano and Rothstein are dropped in the first hour. The opening episode was not as rich in nuance as it was in production design, but the characters have strong foundations for development.

As Mad Men wraps up another season on AMC, HBO has given Sunday night a new lease on life … with a high body count.

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