Fall brings bootleggers, zombies

Gerald Rich

In addition to the anticipated return of shows like “Modern Family” and “Dexter,” this fall television season has two highly noteworthy series premieres. Here’s a look at both and why they’re worth the hype.

“Boardwalk Empire,” HBO — Sept. 19

Whether you actually pay that premium every month for HBO or you just torrent this, “Boardwalk Empire” is shaping up to be the network’s next big hit.

Based on the history of Atlantic City during Prohibition, the show’s pilot was directed by award-winning director Martin Scorsese, co-created by The Sopranos executive producer Terence Winter and stars cult-movie favorite Steve Buscemi.

Buscemi plays Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, the “county treasurer who lives like a pharaoh and is corrupt as the day is long.” He, like many at the time, sees the 18th Amendment as an opportunity for profit rather than a setback. Like any illegal activity on HBO though, things get messier than just bootlegging liquor.

Combine all those great morsels of historical realism set in the time period of Al Capone, nuanced acting and intricate plot, and “Boardwalk Empire” looks like it’s going to be another strong character-driven drama from the network that produced “True Blood” and “The Sopranos.”

“The Walking Dead,” AMC — Oct. 31

Don’t write this off as just another installment in the zombie-mania genre. “The Walking Dead” is based on Robert Kirkman’s series, which won the Eisner Award — the comic book world’s equivalent of an Oscar. Additionally, the show’s creator is Frank Darabont, the director of “The Green Mile” and “The Shawshank Redemption.”

Both iterations of the story follow small-town police officer Rick Grimes from Cynthiana, Ky. In a scene reminiscent of “28 Days Later,” Grimes wakes up in a hospital after the zombie hordes have been unleashed and stumbles into some fellow survivors.

Now, some more jaded readers may groan at another zombie story, but the beauty of this is that it’s not about the zombies. Zombie flicks focus on the fact that you have roughly two hours to tell the story of some survivors discovering the zombie apocalypse, getting wrapped up in it and barely escaping.

“The Walking Dead,” however, has the luxury of being a full-length series with enough time for Grimes to develop and mature like in the comic book. Pair that with creator Darabont and you have a very human story of how people respond to a hell-on-earth situation, not just another zombie action shoot-em-up.