WASHINGTON, August 9, 2013 —With the season premieres of “Hell on Wheels” and “Breaking Bad” this weekend, the network goes a long way in living up to its catch phrase, “AMC, something more.” Add to these shows “The Walking Dead,” Mad Men” and “The Killing,” and AMC easily rivals any of the major broadcast networks in quality scripted programming.
“Breaking Bad” continues its fifth and final season Sunday night at 9 p.m. For those few unfamiliar with the show, “Breaking Bad” is the multi Emmy winning drama about Walter White, a struggling high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.
Concerned with the financial security of his family after he dies, Walter utilizes his considerable knowledge of chemistry to make the purest and most lucrative form of methamphetamine on the market. But Walter soon finds out the life of a drug dealer is far removed from his bucolic suburban life, and no place for ethics.
Watching Walter White’s transformation from a mild mannered teacher to a drug kingpin is an adventurous and often dirty ride unlike any other on TV. With the southwest as the setting for “Breaking Bad,” the result is a beautifully shot and morally ambiguous jaunt that we wish would never end.
If you are among those who don’t understand the hype and anticipation for the final eight episodes of “Breaking Bad,” never fear. AMC is airing the entire first half of season five starting at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
Watching the final episodes of “Breaking Bad” will be like reading the last few chapters of a good book. The closer we get to the end, the more we dread its arrival. No matter how much we want to know the ending, we lament its inevitable arrival.
The other AMC marathon airing this weekend is the entire second season of “Hell on Wheels,” starting at 11 a.m. Saturday morning. Like the “Breaking Bad” marathon, it is immediately followed by the season premiere.
“Hell on Wheels” is a period drama about the construction of America’s first transcontinental railroad immediately following the Civil War. In January of 2012 “Hell on Wheels” was AMC’s second-highest rated original series behind “The Walking Dead,” averaging three million viewers per episode.
For this reason, it is hard to understand why AMC moved “Hell on Wheels” to Saturday night at 9 p.m. Is AMC resigned to abandoning the series to the Saturday night burn off graveyard like the major networks, or do they know something we don’t?
There is little competition on Saturday nights, but the TV audience is much smaller. For the viewer’s sake, let’s hope enough “Hell on Wheels” fans make the transition to the new Saturday night time slot to sustain it, because it is one hell of a show.
Don’t tune in to “Hell on Wheels” expecting a Ken Burns historical documentary. Although it is obvious considerable effort has been made to portray the era accurately, the focus is on the messy divergence of ethnicities forced to work together despite their differences.
Fresh from the fight, veterans from both sides of the Civil War find themselves working side by side, a formula that is as volatile as the long standing rivalry between the Irish Catholics and German Protestants represented on the show. Add to the mix newly freed slaves and the requisite women of ill repute, and “Hell on Wheels” practically writes itself.
The post civil war era is one of America’s most tumultuous, especially on the lawless frontier. The mix of north and south, black and white and immigrant and Indian characters alone makes for compelling TV. Add to it a boom town atmosphere where the progress of the railroad trumps all other agendas, and the result is a show rich with possibilities.
“Breaking Bad” and “Hell on Wheels” are both masterpieces in their own right, and conclusive proof that AMC is truly something more.
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