OnMedia: Returning to normalcy
The first season of the fall's best new drama wrapped up Sunday night with the 12th installment of HBO's "Boardwalk Empire."
The season finale was a slow hour, although it did feature the violence that has punctuated this story of a generational change in crime, from the Irish to the newcomer Italians.
But that pace worked well as we learned a bit more about the humanity of Steve Buscemi's Nucky Thompson, perhaps bringing Kelly Macdonald's Margaret Schroeder back into his life.
And it worked as we saw Nucky's protege, Jimmy Darmody, played by Michael Pitt, be anointed by his biological father to challenge Nucky's control over Atlantic City.
The title of the episode, "A Return to Normalcy," refers to a theme of Warren Harding's presidency (his election is a focus of the season finale). But we've only witnessed the birth of the Roaring 20s in this first season. Prohibition is fueling the growth of the newest generation of organized crime, it's also fueling a generation that flagrantly violated the law in search of a drink.
Harding, himself, presided over a scandal-ridden administration cut short by his death in 1923 (sorry if you consider historical information to be a spoiler.)
But beyond the historical setting, there's nothing normal about the family structures in "Boardwalk Empire." Nucky's a warped father figure for Jimmy, Jimmy's common law marriage is stressed and strained on all sides. Margaret and Nucky had their own pseudo-marriage, and there are signs they'll be back together next season.
All of this unfolded over 12 episodes in the novel-like structure that premium cable allows. I've heard regular viewers compare it to "Deadwood." I see some similarities to "The Sopranos," at least as the historical predecessor of Tony and his gang.
Among the best features of "Boardwalk Empire," as in previous HBO productions, is its ability to breath life into a historical setting. The 1920s are close enough to the modern day to see some similarities. Pop culture is on the rise, from pop music on the Victrola to celebs, like Eddie Cantor and Harry Houdini's brother, the Great Hardeen.
The good news is that "Boardwalk Empire" has already been picked up for a second season. Some 3.3 million people tuned in for the finale, according to Variety's On the Air blog. That's down substantially from the 4.8 million who watched the premiere, but it's still a healthy number for a premium cable show.
Here's a look inside the season finale from HBO:
The clock is ticking for Howard Stern on Sirius: Shock jock Howard Stern's last scheduled live show on Sirius satellite radio is Thursday, Dec. 16. That's when he takes his normal holiday break.
But since his five-year deal with Sirius runs out at the end of the year, there's a good chance it'll be his goodbye from his latest home. It's hard to judge the accuracy of any of Stern's comments on his radio show, since much is just part of the show.
But he was blasting his Sirius boss on Tuesday after the Hollywood Reporter quoted Monday, Sirius XM CFO David Frear as saying Stern might need to take a pay cut.
"I am not taking a f------ pay cut," he said on the air.
That could just be part of ongoing negotiations, but there's no way to tell.
Saying goodbye to Ron Santo: Chicago's WGN-AM (720) plans live coverage of the funeral for Cubs third baseman turned broadcaster Ron Santo starting at 10 a.m. Friday. You can also listen online.
On TV: AJ Bombers and possibly another Milwaukee-area burger joint are among the stops on the episode of "Best Places I've Ever Been" at 3 p.m. on The Travel Channel. It repeats at 7 a.m. Saturday.
- Milwaukee Public TV will start airing the new "Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies" weekly review show when it debuts next month. Starting Jan. 21, it'll air at 11 p.m. Fridays on Channel 10 and 6:30 p.m. Saturdays on Channel 36.
- Speaking of Milwaukee Public TV, its online shop has a great clearance sale going on, with great deals on DVDs, CDs and books.
- Steve Kabelowsky will be leaving his job as digital executive producer for Channel 12 to become a "content strategist" for Pewaukee-based Platypus Advertising, specializing in social media.
- AMC is repeating all three seasons of its "Breaking Bad" in the 11:30 p.m. Wednesday slot, starting tonight with the pilot.
- Speaking of AMC, the season finale of its "Walking Dead" pulled in nearly 6 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. It's already been picked up for a second season next fall.
- Just in case you were wondering, all four broadcast network affiliates in Milwaukee carried Tuesday afternoon's presidential news conference live.
Tonight's Christmas TV pick: There's still something a little creepy about parts of the computer-generated animation, but "Polar Express" is probably the best Christmas movie since "A Christmas Story."
It airs tonight on 7 p.m. on The Disney Channel:
2 things: 1) The 16th is a Thursday. Stern broadcasts live Mon - Thurs. 2) Frear is not Stern's boss. He made that point quite clear in his discussion of the subject.
I wonder if Roger Ebert's new show will be as hateful as his Twitter rantings.
Bunkers, baby! Tell them to make (and add to the menu) the chili of the guy who won the Chili Cookoff in November.
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