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TV Wasteland: Empire Rising
The best show on television returns this week.
By Rob Vaux
September 18, 2011
This week sees the premiere of a huge number of new shows, including Nikita, Supernatural, Fringe and The Big Bang Theory. But one stands head and shoulders above the rest… and while it’s definitely not genre, we want to give it a shout-out because it really is the best thing out there right now. Boardwalk Empire, the story of Prohibition’s king and the power base he built on the flow of illegal liquor, may ultimately trump The Sopranos as the premiere purveyor of organized crime on television.
Steve Buscemi embodies the role of a lifetime as Nucky Thompson: county treasurer of Atlantic City and mastermind behind its alcohol-laden underworld. The second season finds him facing off against the KKK (who target his African-American partner), as well as continuing threats from New York and Chicago. The show thrives on its nuanced approach to Thompson – a widower with a soft streak even as he orders the death of his rivals – and in the complex politics that allowed booze to flourish in every corner of the country. It eschews the usual cops vs. robbers formula (the only policeman in attendance – Michael Shannon’s straight-laced Fed – is a pathological killjoy) in favor of historical detail and savage violence.
Brilliant scriptwriting and the strongest ensemble of performers you’re likely to see make the whole thing purr like a well-oiled machine. If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check out the season premiere this Sunday at 9:00 PM on HBO. If you have seen it, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.
Eureka (Syfy, 8:00 PM EDT)
This is apparently the last Eureka episode ever, so get it while it’s hot. The Astraeus mission goes forward while Carter and Jo try to figure out who attacked the President’s convoy.
Warehouse 13 (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
A roach coach in Ithaca, New York is apparently turning customers into zombies. What have we told you people about eating the chimichangas from that place?!
Alphas (Syfy, 10:00 PM EDT)
Someone in the Alphas team may be secretly working for Red Flag… which could put a small damper on their overall effectiveness.
Death Valley (MTV, 10:30 PM EDT)
A werewolf disrupts a porn shoot with gratuitous clothes ripping and teeth-gouging. Sounds like just another day on set to me… keep the cameras rolling and you’ll make a mint!
Piranha (Showtime, 8:30 PM EDT)
As the latter-day 3D craze finally begins to hit the skids, it’s nice to know that some people still understand its true purpose: gratuitous breast shots and severed limbs flying right into the audience’s lap.
Inception (Cinemax, 10:00 PM EDT)
Carrie (IFC, 8:00 PM EDT)
This is why some of us stayed home and played video games on prom night.
Turistas (IFC, 10:15 PM EDT)
That one guy from Transformers and that one girl from TRON: Legacy do battle with a team of organ harvesters. It doesn’t turn out so well for anyone involved.
The Green Hornet (Starz, 9:00 PM EDT)
Anyone else want to watch the adventures of a fat, entitled superhero? Didn’t think so.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Syfy, 6:30 PM EDT)
Someone tell Alan Moore that the worst is behind him. Seriously, they don’t get any grimmer than this.
Hostel, Part II (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
All it took was one lousy sequel, and torture porn was suddenly a thing of the past.
Ghost Hunters (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
Mysterious noises appear in Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Library, prompting the team to break out with the night-vision cameras for another round.
Valhalla Rising (IFC, 7:00 PM EDT)
Former Bond villain Mads Mikkelsen plays an ancient Viking who stumbles upon the New World after escaping imprisonment. You may be confusing this with a film called Pathfinder. This one is better.
300 (TNT, 10:00 PM EDT)
With three little words, Gerard Butler turned himself into a major star. Pity he hasn’t done much with it.
The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 8:00 PM EDT)
The one-hour season premiere finds the gang dealing with the fallout from Penny’s dalliance with Raj, and Sheldon becoming the leader of the paintball team. Welcome back everyone!
The Vampire Diaries (The CW, 8:00 PM EDT)
A new enemy shows up to battle Damon, and Klaus hits upon a scheme to increase his power with help from a werewolf.
The Secret Circle (The CW, 9:00 PM EDT)
The circle’s powers grow, even as Cassie tries to forsake her witch-y heritage.
Around the World in 80 Days (FMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
Peirce Brosnan takes the role of Phileas Fogg in an engaging rendition of the Jules Verne novel. Christopher Lee, Eric Idle, Patrick Macnee, Peter Ustinov and Roddy McDowell round out a very strong cast.
Avatar (HBO, 8:00 PM EDT)
It’s very green, and also a little blue. Plus the Marines can be pretty mean sometimes.
Troy (Syfy, 8:00 PM EDT)
Brad Pitt IS Achilles. Or not.
Fringe (Fox, 8:00 PM EDT)
Peter is still gone and the two universes maintain their awkward truce as the fourth season gets underway.
Nikita (The CW, 8:00 PM EDT)
Nikita and Michael prepare to take down Division, with Division’s new leader Amanda standing in their way as the second season officially begins.
Supernatural (The CW, 9:00 PM EDT)
Seven seasons! Well done, everyone. In any case, Castiel is now God and the Winchesters apparently have to sit there and take it.
Haven (Syfy, 10:00 PM EDT)
Mummified victims mean another round of supernatural mystery solving, courtesy of New England’s own version of The X-Files.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Cartoon, 8:00 PM EDT)
The Mon Calamari battle Separatist invaders with a little help from Ahsoka.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold (Cartoon, 6:00 PM EDT)
Batman and the Justice League travel back in time to pimp-slap various historical miscreants.
Young Justice (Cartoon, 6:30 PM EDT)
Superboy and Miss Martian infiltrate a supervillains’ prison. Insert Kryptonite soap joke here.
The Village (AMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
Try to spot the exact moment when Shyamalan’s career goes off the rails here. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose (AMC, 10:30 PM EDT)
I can’t believe Tom Wilkinson agreed to appear in this drek. Tommy, it goes without saying that you’re above this; don’t make us remind you again.
Alien Resurrection (BBC America, 9:00 PM EDT)
The Alien franchise comes to a less-than-auspicious end with this fourth entry. Considering the talent involved, it should have been much stronger.
Men in Black (Cinemax, 8:20 PM EDT)
Will Smith’s best movie? A few nods to Ali aside, I’d be inclined to say “yes.”
Death Race (FX, 9:00 PM EDT)
Why does this film work? I don’t know, though Jason Statham may have something to do with it…
Megamind (HBO, 8:00 PM EDT)
It’s pretty terrific, even when it isn’t in 3D.
King Solomon’s Mines (TCM, 8:00 PM EDT)
This rip-roaring adventure yarn from 1950 served as a template for the Indiana Jones films, among others.
Doctor Who (BBC America, 9:00 PM EDT)
The Cybermen are back, which spells all kinds of headaches for the Doctor. Once again our official blog, Confessions of a Neowhovian (www.neowhovian.com), can tell you all about it.
The Others (AMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
Nicole Kidman shines in this outstanding haunted house story about mysterious forces threatening the owners of a Gothic mansion during World War II.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (Cinemax, 7:00 PM EDT)
As an action film, it’s solid. As a Terminator film, it’s woefully second rate.
Hatchet II (Cinemax, 10:00 PM EDT)
I confess that I have never seen Hatchet I, so I couldn’t say whether the sequel is worth watching or not.
Jonah Hex (HBO, 9:45 PM EDT)
You’ve been warned. Let’s just leave it at that.
Push (Showtime, 8:00 PM EDT)
I’m glad Chris Evans has a solid gig with Captain America, but this little-seen comic book pastiche has some good things going for it as well.
Jeepers Creepers 2 (Syfy, 7:00 PM EDT)
You know those jock douchebags who beat you up in high school? Watch this tonight; it feels like you’re getting even.
Morlocks (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
HG Wells’ monsters from The Time Machine travel to the present and wreak all kinds of shitty CG havoc.
Boardwalk Empire (HBO, 9:00 PM EDT)
The best show on television returns for a second season as Nucky defends his burgeoning bootleg empire from a new wave of threats. See the top of the article for more.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cinemax, 10:00 PM EDT)
James Cameron’s unexpectedly terrific sequel holds up well, even after twenty years.
Dead Silence (Syfy, 7:00 PM EDT)
As dreadful as this movie is, I gotta admit that ventriloquists’ dummies are really creepy.
Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
As with so many movies on Syfy, the title pretty much says it all.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (TNT, 7:00 PM EDT)
A slightly better Part 3 can be found on TNT tonight.