Apr 15, 201301:50 PMThe Telegraph

The Premier Blog of the West

'Hell On Wheels' Returns Aug. 3

Apr 15, 2013 - 01:50 PM
'Hell On Wheels' Returns Aug. 3

AMC

Anson Mount stars as Cullen Bohannon in "Hell on Wheels."

 

AMC wants to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when TV viewers routinely enjoyed original episodes of scripted dramas on Saturday nights. So the cable network has announced plans to present the 10-episode third season of Hell on Wheels — the acclaimed western series about the post-Civil War construction of the Transcontinental Railroad — on Saturdays starting Aug. 3.

But wait, there’s more: AMC — which has been attracting a significant number of viewers with western movies and TV series on Saturdays — will continue to offer such programming all the live-long day.

“A new episode of Hell on Wheels on Saturday night after a full day of western fan favorites is going to be like the saddle on top of the horse,” says AMC president and general manager Charlie Collier.  “This is a programmer’s dream — to have a genre specific, 14-hour lead-in to one of your highest rated originals.  We are so excited about this opportunity to entertain AMC’s audience in a new way.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, AMC is supplementing its already vast inventory of classic western films by striking a deal with Paramount to present a passel of pictures starring John Wayne, including El DoradoThe Man Who Shot Liberty ValanceThe Shootist and The Sons of Katie Elder. Also on tap for Saturdays: Special anniversary celebrations of two other Wayne movies — Hondo (1953) and McLintock! (1963) — and two Clint Eastwood favorites, Hang ‘em High (1968) and High Plains Drifter (1973).

Speaking of Eastwood: AMC has acquired rights to Rawhide, the 1959-65 series about cowboys on cattle drives, to join another popular TV western, The Rifleman, on the Saturday schedule.

Moving Hell on Wheels to Saturdays is viewed by some industry analysts as a calculated risk on AMC’s part. Even though the series has been moderately successful as an audience draw throughout its first two seasons, it heretofore aired — just like AMC’s heavily hyped and widely watched Mad Men, The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad — on Sundays.

“For almost a decade,” notes Bill Carter of The New York Times, “Saturday night has been television’s version of Boot Hill — where series go to die.”

And yet, Carter adds, “unlike most recent moves of shows to Saturdays, like NBC’s decision to exile its most painful recent flop, Smash, there, AMC executives say they are enthusiastic about this move.”

Indeed, AMC’s Collier — pointing to his network’s strategy of targeting male viewers between the ages 25 and 54 — thinks western dramas in general, and Hell on Wheels in particular, could prove extremely popular during a long, hot summer when rival networks aren’t programming many major sporting events.

The western genre “plays right into our wheelhouse,” Collier told The New York Times. “If you can picture that 40-something-year-old male looking for an option on Saturday night, I think we’re going to have one of the few original series that really super-serves that viewer.”

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