3. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Stars: Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Shea Whigham, Michael Stuhlbarg, Stephen Graham, Jack Huston, Vincent Piazza, Gretchen Mol, Michael Kenneth Williams, Bobby Cannavale, Anatol Yusef, Charlie Cox, Stephen Root
Premiere date: September 16
The tagline for Boardwalk Empire's third season says it all: "You can't be half a gangster." And, after committing a pivotal murder in cold blood at the end of the second season's excellent finale, Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) is definitely in full-on badass mode, which is the perfect way to head into what promises to be a brutally violent, jam-packed 13 episodes for the Martin Scorsese-backed period series.
Unlike, say, True Blood, Boardwalk Empire is that rare show that's able to balance multiple characters while giving each one an interesting and well-handled storyline. It's a testament to the skills of creator Terrence Winter and his writing staff that folks like Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams), Al Capone (Stephen Graham), and Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon) are just as endlessly watchable as Nucky.
This year, Boardwalk's volatile cast of criminals will meet a new face who's ready to shake things up in tumultuous ways: Gyp Rosetti, an antagonistic presence played by severely underrated character actor Bobby Cannavale (who turned in some phenomenal work as a Nurse Jackie co-star earlier this year). And, make no mistake about it, he's all gangster.