HBO's latest series bet, Boardwalk Empire, rolled a seven with the Nielsens Sunday night, drawing 4.8 million viewers to its premiere, and for its creators as the premium network ordered a second season.
The Sept. 19 bow of the series about gangsters and corruption in Atlantic City at the start of Prohibition era marked the premium network's top series opening since Deadwood debuted before 5.8 million on March 21, 2004. The western series, the biggest beginning ever for an HBO skein, benefited greatly from its lead-in, The Sopranos, which drew 10.1 million viewers to the third episode of its fifth season.
With additional plays at 10:15 p.m. and 11:30 pm, Boardwalk Empire, starring Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson, the leader of the AC's illegal liquor and other illicit enterprises, was watched by a combined 7.1 million viewers on Sept. 19.
Following the big debut and the critical acclaim, Michael Lombardo, president of HBO Programming, announced the series' renewal.
"All the ingredients aligned for this one, from Mark Wahlberg and Steve Levinson's initial pitch, to Martin Scorsese's enormous contributions as director and executive producer, to the genius of Terry Winter and the expertise of Tim Van Patten, to a stellar cast led by Steve Buscemi," said Lombardo. "The response from the media and our viewers has been nothing short of amazing."