FORGET Downton, Doctor Who or the perennial gloomfest that is EastEnders — the highlight of the Christmas schedule had to be the series finale of Boardwalk Empire on Sky Atlantic on Christmas Eve.

The show backed by Martin Scorsese arrived in a blaze of publicity when Sky launched its import channel and although the first series about the prohibition era in Atlantic City was good, it didn’t live up to the hype.

But series two has matured into a real cracker.

The extreme sex and violence which seemed to take up most of the first series has been toned down and the characters allowed to develop — always a good sign in a drama series.

As a result, when the violence has occurred — and it has been graphic — the effect has been both shocking and dramatic.

A classic case came in the finale as Mr Big, Nucky Thompson, resolved his dispute with Jimmy Darmody in brutal fashion.

If you’re a devotee of the series, admit it: you didn’t see that one coming, now did you?

Rather like The Sopranos (although it’s not yet in that category), Boardwalk Empire has not been afraid of heading off in totally unexpected directions, even if that means ‘removing’ fairly central characters.

A combination of good writing, exellent performances and some wonderful camera work has made this a series to remember.

Bring on series three.