Last fall, HBO ordered a second season of "Boardwalk Empire" only days after the first-ever episode had aired. This fall, HBO execs made Steve Buscemi, Terence Winter and company sweat it out just a bit more, announcing the third season renewal three weeks into season 2.

“Following a triumphant first season, I was eager to see what Terry Winter, Martin Scorsese and the rest of their stellar team had in store, and they continue to surpass our highest expectations,” HBO president Michael Lombardo said in a statement.  “The response from the media and our viewers has been extremely gratifying.”

Ratings for the new season have been down from the season 1 averages - especially when you factor in the 4+ million people who watched the Martin Scorsese-directed series premiere - but ratings (whether for the Sunday at 9 airing alone, or combined numbers across all platforms, including On Demand and HBO Go) have never been the driver for these kinds of decisions at HBO. They're not dependent on advertising, so raw viewership numbers matter less than harder-to-quantify issues like how a particular show represents the channel's brand.

"Boardwalk" isn't cheap, and it wasn't the dominant Emmy force some were expecting before it premiered. (It won 8 Emmys last month, but 7 of those were in technical categories, and Scorsese's win for directing was practically pre-ordained from the moment the show was announced.) But it's a strong show with a lot of praise from the critics (including this one), and coming in at a shade below 3 million viewers for the most recent Sunday airing (before all the other timeslots and platforms are factored in) isn't bad at all, particularly after HBO saw the miniscule numbers for its two Monday comedy premieres this week, with "Bored to Death" drawing 240,000 viewers and "Enlightened" only 210,000.