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October 11, 2010  | by: Dania McDermott

Nucky Thompson, Tony Soprano

It’s not surprising that HBO’s new series, Boardwalk Empire, evokes Sopranos nostalgia. Much like its predecessor, the show capitalizes on the illegal underbelly of well-connected men. Offering sometimes gruesome, sometimes glamorous snapshots of their respective worlds, both series are anchored by well-wrought characters: Steve Buscemi sparkles as corrupt city treasurer, Nucky Thompson, Empire‘s answer to Tony Soprano, and is every bit as likable despite his often duplicitous deeds. Then of course, there’s the obvious: both series are set in New Jersey.

On the Set of Boardwalk Empire

But the Jersey of Boardwalk Empire is one we haven’t seen before.

Stripped of the contemporary trappings coveted by Soprano & Co., the show’s focus on the bustling Atlantic City Boardwalk of the 1920′s mandates a luxury that even Carmela’s finest jewels can’t contend with. SUV’s and flat-screen televisions also seem remiss when confronted by the awkward charm of Boardwalk‘s rolling chairs and freak shows. Even Bada-Bing!, the fictional strip club frequented by Tony and his peers, is cheapened by the promise of live glamor-girl entertainment available on the Boardwalk.

Atlantic City Boardwalk, 1940

This isn’t to suggest that Boardwalk Empire supplies a superior portrayal of organized crime, but with its roots in the era of Prohibition, the show does provide a revitalized image of New Jersey, a state whose boardwalk once held the same glitzy relevance for the elite as Harlem did for New York  - and amidst the popularity of one-dimensional characters from New Jersey on TV, that ain’t such a bad thing.

Boardwalk Empire airs on Sunday nights at 9pm EST.

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