The 1920s is an era romanticized and glorified, often by individuals who weren’t even alive at the time. Looking back on the fashion, underground parties, strong booze and Jazz can make you want to dive right into a Fitzgerald story a la Midnight in Paris. Boardwalk Empire (9 p.m. Sundays, HBO) takes what we love about the ’20s, backed with historically based events and characters, and serves it up with whole a lot of darkness. Once the music ends and the champagne runs dry, it’s a violent, chilling scenario where the bosses of Boardwalk will do whatever it takes to remain in control.
Steve Buscemi is on top of his game in his award-winning role as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, political powerhouse and treasurer of Atlantic City. Besides rigging votes and lying his way up the ranks, Nucky pushes for Prohibition in hopes of striking gold in the bootlegging business. Every act he makes, from political decisions to personal relationships, is a strategy to keep him reaping the benefits of work without paying any consequences. For “that guy from those Adam Sandler movies” (as my father so eloquently describes the actor), Buscemi sure can portray a cunning, terrifying man.
Intriguing supporting characters include Kelly MacDonald’s Margaret Schroeder, a mother of two who Nucky saved from poverty and an abusive husband. Now married to Nucky, she realizes no good deed comes without a grave price, and her Catholic guilt has taken hold. There’s also a peculiar sidekick, Richard Harrow, who lost half his face in World War I (perhaps one of the few true protagonists of the series), Al Capone and even Cincinnati’s own George Remus (rumored to be the inspiration for Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby). Don’t get too attached to them, though. As made clear last season, showrunners have no problem killing off characters the audience has come to know and love — much like the gangsters off ’em.
Sunday’s third season premiere opens on New Year’s Eve 1922. That places the setting a year and a half after the last finale, so we’ll see how Nucky, Gillian, Van Alden and the rest have dealt with season two’s big changes.
WEDNESDAY SEPT. 12
Toy Hunter -(9 p.m., Travel Channel) – Toy collector Jordan Hembrough makes a stop in Cincinnati on a search for vintage games and dolls.
Top Chef Masters (10 p.m., Bravo) – The chefs prepare a fancy picnic spread for underground pop-up dinner party, Dîner en Blanc. Coincidentally, the same event (sans pro chefs and a TV crew) takes over a secret location in Cincinnati Saturday.
The Real World: St. Thomas (Season Finale, 10 p.m., MTV) – Brandon may have gotten the boot during last week’s episode, but now the rest of the crew says goodbye to their private island. The reunion immediately follows.
THURSDAY SEPT. 13
Project Runway (9 p.m., Lifetime) – The eight remaining contestants create their own fabric for this week’s challenge. Despite warnings from Tim, one design turns out, um, bloody awful.
Glee (Season Premiere, 9 p.m., Fox) – In season four, we find Rachel studying at NYADA (Kate Hudson plays her dance instructor). Back at McKinley, familiar faces return as a fresh crop of hopefuls audition for New Directions.
Wilfred (10 p.m., FX) – Jenna and Drew ask Ryan and Wilfred to be co-ring bearers at their wedding.
Louie (10:30 p.m., FX) – As Louie considers the late night show offer, others (like his ex-wife and Jay Leno) weigh in.
SATURDAY SEPT. 15
Saturday Night Live (Season Premiere, 11:30 p.m., NBC) – SNL’s 38th year kicks off with host Seth MacFarlane and musical guest Frank Ocean. Kristin Wiig, Andy Samberg and Abby Elliott (yawn) have left the show, making room for Aidy Bryant, Tim Robinson and Cecily Strong.
SUNDAY SEPT. 16
Bar Rescue (9 p.m., Spike) -– Jon Taffer and his bar revival crew transform Fairfield’s Win, Place or Show into America Live. Spoiler Alert: Despite the upgrades and publicity, America Live closed its doors just a few weeks ago.
Weeds (Series Finale, 10 p.m., Showtime) – Lots of loose ends to tie up in this one-hour final episode. Nancy and Andy finally slept together, but will they give their relationship a real shot? While my interest in the show had lessened over the last few seasons, it’s nice to return to Agrestic and get back to the show’s roots: pot, parenting and poking fun at suburban life.
TUESDAY SEPT. 18
Sons of Anarchy (10 p.m., FX) – Past wrongdoings come back to bite Jax and the other Sons.
CONTACT JAC KERN: firstname.lastname@example.org