HBO has given Boardwalk Empire the green light for a second season, just minutes after releasing Nielsen numbers proving it to be an out-of-the-box hit. Sunday’s slightly hyped premiere of its twenties-set gangster epic was watched by 4.8 million viewers during its initial 9 p.m. airing, giving the series the best debut numbers for an HBO series in six years (and right around the Nielsen number regularly generated by its smash hit True Blood). The last show to exit the gate so fast was 2004’s Deadwood, which had the advantage of a big lead-in from The Sopranos; by contrast, Empire was a self-starter. Add in viewership for two other Sunday showings of Boardwalk, and viewership rises to 7.1 millon, which is pretty stunning given that HBO reaches fewer than 29 million homes.
“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,” HBO programming boss Michael Lombardo said. “The response from the media and our viewers has been nothing short of amazing.” Anyway, now that you’ve got your dose of Nielsen Nucky, get ready for the first installment of Your Nielsen Ratings Explained, in which we break down how last night’s shows did with viewers. We’ll update this post shortly with those numbers.