That was quick: HBO is serving up a second helping of its latest breakout hit, Boardwalk Empire.

On Tuesday, the network announced that it has renewed its new prohibition-era drama for a second season just one episode out of the can, dishes. The show’s $18 million Martin Scorcese-directed pilot garnered 4.8 million viewers on Sunday to become HBO’s most-watched series premiere since Deadwood drew in 5.79 million views on March 24, 2004.

Boardwalk — which stars Steve Buscemi as 1920’s Atlantic City political boss Enoch “Nucky” Thompson — boasted additional plays at 10:15 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., which actually scored 7.1 million total viewers for the night. The series even trumped the premiere of vampire-themed ratings juggernaut True Blood, which drew just 1.44 million viewers when it debuted in Sept. 2008.

“All the ingredients aligned for this one, from [producers] Mark Wahlberg and Steve Levinson’s initial pitch, to Martin Scorsese’s enormous contributions as director and executive producer, to the genius of [executive producer] Terry Winter and the expertise of [producer] Tim Van Patten, to a stellar cast led by Steve Buscemi,” HBO’s President of Programming, Michael Lombardo, said in a statement. “The response from the media and our viewers has been nothing short of amazing.”

Scorsese meticulously recreates the Roaring Twenties with a historian’s attention to period detail, from the gorgeous costumes to the colorful storefronts to real-life mobsters (i.e. a young Al Capone!) and the gangsters’ guns and getaway cars.

“Boardwalk Empire,” created by former “The Sopranos” writer Terence Winter, tells the story of Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi), who is a study in contrast as the charming treasurer of Atlantic City and a vicious criminal.

Buscemi, taking his first stab at leading man status, turns Nucky into a powerful yet neurotic schemer bent on being the bootlegger boss of the Roaring Twenties. Buscemi’s scarecrow build, buggy eyes and irritating voice are perfect for the role. He imbues Nucky with equal parts humor, compassion, brains and a truly frightening nasty streak.

One minute he’s charming the bloomers off the members of the Women’s Temperance League, the next he’s demanding a brutal beatdown of a rival.

Buscemi’s performance is matched by those around him, especially Michael Pitt as Nucky’s impatient protégé, Michael Shannon as a federal agent, Anthony Laciura as Nucky’s inept butler and Kelly MacDonald as a struggling Irish immigrant who Nucky helps in his own special way.

You may not recognize the depth of these characters right away, but don’t judge “Boardwalk Empire” too quickly. Scorsese has sacrificed character for scenic realism in the premiere, but he succeeds in setting up a web of intriguing plot lines and introduces us to a dazzling gangster world filled with dozens of complicated characters like Nucky.


Gallery Images of Cast