Can fictional politicians be more effective than real politicians when it comes to urban beautification? That’s the implicit question posed by cable network HBO at their TV Production Studio, when their latest advertising campaign for their television show Boardwalk Empire hit the atlantic shoreline recently.

Take a look at this before and after picture posted on by HBO on Facebook touting Nucky Thompson’s service to the people of Atlantic City:

Nucky Thompson keeps Atlantic City Beautiful

So thanks to a fictional mayor (who is based on old Atlantic City political boss Enoch Johnson) , Pacific Avenue now has some nice greenery. This novel approach by HBO is a welcome idea, especially to those in Atlantic City. Despite the fact that the show portrays a time of rampant cronyism, bootlegging and corruption which really shows AC in a negative light, residents love the good that is being brought from it.

Consider the good that could be done if more strongly location based programs would follow HBO’s lead? Granted HBO has a unique position where a fake politician can do things that real elected officials are unable to do, and other characters aren’t exactly set to fit the bill (the cast of Showtime’s Hung for example would make poor representatives to fix up Scrippts park in Detroit, but maybe Showtime themselves could do it with a more explicit advertisement).

Compared to the cost of say, a electronic billboard ad in Times Square or expensive online media campaigns, it seems to reason that you would get better public response through corporate responsibility than you blatantly trying to solicit someone’s time. I’m willing to bet True Blood could get more viewers by planting trees along the highway in Shreveport courtesy of the vampire King than they will by having their characters do fake video blogs.

In an other example of a way television can enhance lives outside of pure entertainment, Hollywood Reporter is reporting that HBO has put a museum quality 1920s subway train back in service for much of September (read the full story here) on the NY Subway system’s 2/3 line, looking amazing and decked out in HBO themed promo advertisements.

The morale of the story? Even if the real Mayors and Councilmen cannot get things done, maybe it’s time for the ones we see on TV to start making a difference in the communities they pretend to serve. In the meantime, Atlantic City looks better (and the NYC Subway, for the time being), and we all have Enoch Thompson and HBO to thank.

Who’se next?

John Cruz
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John Cruz

Editor-In-Chief at The Urbanist Dispatch
John Cruz, MUP, is an urbanist, photographer, and city planner. He has lived in Detroit, Montréal, and now resides in St. Louis.
John Cruz
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