Back on the Boardwalk

The hot failed Constitutional amendment this season is the eighteenth. Prohibition is not only the subject of Ken Burns’ latest six-hour, three part documentary that starts next week, it’s also the continuing backdrop for the nuanced HBO series “Boardwalk Empire” (HBO, 9 p.m.).

In many ways, it’s the network’s most ambitious shows – with the power and brutality of “The Sopranos” with the detailed history and costumed finery of the best in motion pictures.

For as strong as the first half of the second season is – with surprises, action, a few new characters and a few turnarounds – the season premiere itself is a bit tedious in setting up the world of Prohibition-era Atlantic City one more time and reminding us of the large cast of characters.

Chalky White’s story gets more time this season and the fractures around Nucky Thompson’s rule of town begin to be more pronounced even as out of town gangsters with famous names begin to realign. Who will stay loyal to him? And will his principaled wife elect to stay with him and this lifestyle?

They’re all big questions, and “Boardwalk” is just the big, swaggering, confident series set to answer them all, in a stylish and striking way, every Sunday night this fall.

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