The TV landscape is about to become a safer, albeit duller, place.
The bootleggers, gangsters and other assorted miscreants of “Boardwalk Empire” (9 p.m. Sunday, HBO) are kicking off their fifth and final season. Two days later, the outlaw bikers of SAMCRO start preparing to ride out of Charming for good in the seventh and final season of “Sons of Anarchy” (10 p.m. Tuesday, FX).
As entertaining as both series have been over the years, though, it feels like it’s time.
“Boardwalk” always has been an easier series to admire than to love. Despite top-notch production values and a terrific performance from Steve Buscemi as Atlantic City crime aficionado Nucky Thompson, the series is usually too sprawling and fragmented for its own good. It’s anywhere from three to six interesting dramas smushed into one.
In addition to Nucky’s dealings in Atlantic City, there’s the usual Chicago-based crimes centered around Al Capone (Stephen Graham), the New York City dealings of Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza) and Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef), and Nucky’s new Havana-based partnership with Sally Wheet (Patricia Arquette).
This season, which jumps ahead seven years to 1931, finds Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) in Manhattan struggling with the aftermath of the 1929 Wall Street crash, Chalky (Michael Kenneth Williams) somewhere in the woods on a prison work detail and Gillian (Gretchen Mol) off dealing with her demons.
Throw in new storylines involving Eliot Ness (Jim True-Frost) and Joseph Kennedy (Matt Letscher), as well as flashbacks to Lil’ Nucky in 1884, and it’s all just too much too much.
“Anarchy,” though, is suffering from the opposite problem. Characters keep dying in brutal and horrific new ways, but with rare exceptions — namely the season five addition of Jimmy Smits as old-school gangbanger Nero Padilla — the new blood hasn’t reinvigorated the series.
Looking around Jax Teller’s (Charlie Hunnam) table these days is like staring into a half-empty photo album. Clay, Opie and Piney departed in previous seasons. Now Juice (Theo Rossi) is hiding from the other members. Aside from Bobby (Mark Boone Jr.), Chibs (Tommy Flanagan) and the filthily irrepressible Tig (Kim Coates), there’s zilch in the way of character development inside the club.
And Jax has devolved from the forward-thinking young radical looking to take SAMCRO in a more respectable direction to a human torpedo: Point him in a direction, and he destroys anything in his path.
Having seen three episodes of their new seasons, I still couldn’t tell you what the larger season-long arc is for either series.
They’re still fine dramas. I never miss an episode. But it’s time.
From Salem to the Strip: “Days of Our Lives” is taking over Fashion Show mall on Saturday. Kristian Alfonso (Hope Williams Brady), Shawn Christian (Dr. Daniel Jonas), Kassie DePaiva (Eve Donovan), Daniel Cosgrove (Aiden Jennings) and Guy Wilson (Will Horton) will meet fans and sign autographs from 10 a.m. to noon in the Great Hall near Nordstrom. Arianne Zucker (Nicole Walker), Chrishell Stause (Jordan Ridgeway), Kate Mansi (Abigail Deveraux), Galen Gering (Rafe Hernandez) and Robert Scott Wilson (Ben Rogers) will follow from 1:30-3:30 p.m. A question-and-answer session will wrap things up from 4-4:45 p.m.
TUF enough: “The Ultimate Fighter” (7 p.m. Wednesday, Fox Sports 1) kicks off its 20th season with its first all-female cast of fighters.
Contact Christopher Lawrence at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4567.