SoHo Saddles Up Hell on Wheels for Summer

Yahoo! Sky’s SoHo Channel will launch the rip-snorting shoot-‘em-up, Hell on Wheels, early in the new year.

TV’s first western series since Deadwood went to air over the weekend in the US.

And while key critics were ornery about its prospects, viewers rewarded AMC, the network that greenlit Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, with gangbuster ratings.

Indeed, it was AMC’s highest-rating series premiere after The Walking Dead, drawing 4.4 million viewers.

However, it fell well short of AMC’s first original scripted drama, the western mini-series, Broken Trail, which 9.8 million viewers saw in 2006.

Trade papers Variety and The Hollywood Reporter gave Hell on Wheels mixed reviews.

The former said the promising concept, about the mobile settlement around the laying of the transcontinental railroad, evokes inevitable comparisons to Deadwood.

“The net result, however, is only fitfully compelling, and for a series about trains periodically runs out of narrative steam in the later legs of the five episodes previewed.”

Concurred THR: “There are elements to Hell on Wheels that are compelling. There’s potential galore — as there should be when you’re doing a genre series with so many iconic elements to choose from.

“But there’s a nagging suspicion that Hell on Wheels, created by Tony and Joe Gayton, doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, which may explain why after four hours it seems like a collection of ideas that haven’t quite gelled.”

But viewers clearly agreed with the likes of The Washington Post: “Hands down the most intriguing show on the fall slate … Though imbued with epic sweep, Hell on Wheels is a western at heart, even if that heart is cold.

“Plenty of guns, knives, arrows, scalpings — mixed with the incendiary socio-psychological wounds left in the Civil War’s wake.”

Echoed The Wall Street Journal: “As familiar as this tableau may be, Hell on Wheels finds enough beauty, danger and emotion to make some part of every episode seem fresh and worth waiting for.”

Its Big Apple rival, the New York Times, wasn’t quite as impressed, dubbing it “a big, lusty but surprisingly timid look at the bold pioneers and profiteers who ravaged nature to build a nation”.

The Times has one of the best backgrounders to the series while THR has an in-depth Q&A session with the creators as well as a round-up of other oaters in the works, including pilots from the producers of The Pacific and Battlestar Galactica.

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