Counting down the best TV in 2010
9. "Boardwalk Empire" (HBO)
It started off as a flat period drama set in the 1920s, with stock gangsters and bootleggers. And then "Boardwalk Empire" came to life, turning Steve Buscemi's Nucky (pictured) and Michael Pitt's Jimmy into a pair of confused, cool, morally convoluted heroes. As their backstories emerged, so did their buried humanity. The writers also made the generic female characters more interesting, giving them unexpected twists — the sniffy Margaret ending up with Nucky, for instance — that made them seem real. And the overall Prohibition-based theme — the lure of the forbidden — held the show together and gave it a universal resonance.