Entertainment » TV Highlights

The Televisionist, Sept. 16

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BOARDWALK EMPIRE

HBO

9 p.m. Sundays

As one of the fans who have periodic waves of grief and nostalgia over the HBO series "The Sopranos," I long to see gangsters on screen again. I canceled my primo cable subscription soon after Tony and Co. blinked into the black, Journey-tuned nothingness of syndication, and haven't really looked back, even as the world went nuts over a certain bloodsucking soap opera called "True Blood." That said, I may have to give my cable provider a call given HBO's new and awesome-looking entry into the world of organized crime: "Boardwalk Empire." The show looks dynamite, and has a team behind it — including executive producer and director Martin Scorsese and Sopranos scribe Terence Winter — with the chops to make something happen, cap'n. Based on the book "Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City" by historian Nelson Johnson, the show revolves around the black-market adventures of Enoch "Nucky" Thompson (Steve Buscemi), a politically-situated crime boss (based on real-life gangster Nucky Johnson) who ran Atlantic City in the 1920s and tangled and cut deals with young mobsters Arnold Rothstein, Lucky Luciano and Al Capone. Beginning on the day Prohibition was officially enacted, the show follows America down the rabbit hole of temperance into an era defined both by an obsessive need to regulate sin and an underworld of gangsters, sex, and crime. While Buscemi isn't everybody's cup of tea, he's a fine character actor, and there's every sign in the world that he can pull off Nucky Thompson, if not make the character into an icon on the level of Tony Soprano. Even though Buscemi's got a lot of weight to carry, with Scorsese at the helm of the pilot episode and episodes to come, it's likely that "Boardwalk Empire" won't go wrong. Clips we've seen — with production designers slavishly recreating the world of 1920 Atlantic City, including a 10-acre set full of period shops — look fan-freakin'-tastic. Add to that a writer who seems to have a golden touch when it comes to telling stories of crime and criminals, and we're pretty sure "Boardwalk Empire" can squeeze some fine wine out of Prohibition.

David Koon

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