“Boardwalk Empire” was born for HBO. The spectacular series about 1920s Atlantic City, the politics, the corruption and the crime, fits perfectly into the cable network’s wheelhouse. It’s an ambitious epic that is a worthy successor to “The Sopranos,” and makes up for some of the misfires loyal HBO viewers have had to endure over the past few years. “Empire” debuts on Sunday night with a pilot (directed by Martin Scorsese) that plays like a feature film. Watch it on a big screen. You’ve probably seen the magnificent trailer and said “I can’t wait to see this.” I’ve seen the first six episodes and can’t wait to see what happens in episode seven. I’m visiting JoyHog Corporate Headquarters in Hollywood, and waited until I was sitting in JP’s living room — where I can see a huge “Boardwalk Empire” billboard across the way – to write this review. This is the TV event of the Fall, a show that is impossible to resist. The Roaring 20s, an important decade that has not been overdone by TV and movies, comes alive in this lavish, perfectly pitched series. It’s got all the necessary ingredients — gangsters, showgirls, violence, sex and comedy. But great shows don’t become great without superior writing and acting, and “Empire” has both in spades. Terence Winter, a major force on”The Sopranos,” is the main writer. Steve Buscemi, who plays Nucky Thompson, the corrupt treasurer (based on a real person) who runs the town, heads a dynamite cast. HBO gambled on Buscemi, a well-respected character actor but one devoid of leading-man charisma, at the heart of the story, but I believe it paid off. Buscemi grabs the viewer from the start. He takes over the role. Add Michael Pitt as Nucky’s young protege… Michael Kenneth Williams as a black crime boss… Michael Shannon as an obsessed federal agent… Kelly Macdonald as an innocent widow… and Gretchen Mol as a showgirl. The intriguing supporting characters — male and female — work their way into the complex plot, which takes a few episodes to unwind. Must watch. Can’t miss. You bet. HBO can start clearing more space on its trophy shelves.
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