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cheek by jowl

Does Boardwalk Empire Out–Mad Men Mad Men?

Watching last night's series premiere of the promising Boardwalk Empire — in which likably unlikable men drink, smoke, and generally behave badly in an old-timey setting — it was hard not to wonder if HBO is still upset about having lost Mad Men to AMC. Could Boardwalk have been hatched by the network in specific hopes of outdoing Matthew Weiner? It's almost as if they made a list of things people like about Mad Men and set out to include double of each in their show. After the jump, a head-to-head comparison.

  Mad Men Boardwalk Empire
Tumultuous Setting Manhattan during the slow-starting sixties Atlantic City in the roaring twenties
Smoking Constant Constant.
Drinking Constant. Constant, even though it's illegal, which makes it way cooler
Set design Totally gorgeous. Each episode costs a reported $3 million. Totally gorgeous. Pilot episode reportedly cost as much as $30 million.
Suits Awesome, but mostly two-piece Awesome and mostly three-piece
Casual racism Took till the third season to feature a character in blackface. Took about 30 seconds to feature a character in blackface.
Casual sexism Women treated like pieces of ass in the workplace. Women treated like pieces of ass.
Profanity Lots of shits and damns. F-bomb dropped in pilot's opening minute.
Violence A rape, some punching, a little pigeon-shooting, and a lawnmowed foot Entire faces shot off
Nudity Some male toplessness Female toplessness and bottomlessness
Flawed male anti-hero Genius identity-thieving ad and ladies man Don Draper (Jon Hamm) Genius bootlegging, hit-ordering racketeer Nucky Johnson (Steve Buscemi)
Hero's fun-ruining family Mean, childish wife and bratty kids No kids and a dead wife
Hero's fast-rising protege Peggy, the straight-laced workaholic copywriter Jimmy, the unhinged, PTSD-suffering, Princeton-dropout gangster
Historical Figures Conrad Hilton Al Capone
Show creator's celebrity mentor Matthew Weiner had help from Sopranos boss David Chase. Terrance Winter had help from Sopranos boss David Chase. And Martin Scorsese.
Photo: HBO, AMC