HELL ON WHEELS: Fall TV 2011 [Worth Watching?]

I know I said that I wasn’t going to cover new cable shows this Fall, and for the most part I haven’t — though, I’ve heard AMERICAN HORROR STORY is okay to good — but still missing DEADWOOD as I do, I had to give this new AMC show, HELL ON WHEELS at least one looky-loo. Here are my thoughts:

Overview: An ex Confederate soldier bent on avenging the murder of his wife by a squad of Union soldiers joins one of the outfits building the transcontinental railroad. His new job is to oversee the black workers, one of which is played by Common. This is an ensemble show, so we also get perspectives from Thomas Durant (Colm Meaney), a corrupt railroad investor; Lily Bell, the British wife of a railroad surveyor; and eventually, according to the previews, Eddie Spears, a Native American torn between the new world and tradition.

What I Liked: This show is way more diverse than DEADWOOD, it’s also well-acted, and well-paced, with really great story premises and characters.  

What I Didn’t Like: The show has what I call the COLD MOUNTAIN problem. It’s a little too well-done, a little too poised for Emmy consideration. It makes the whole affair feel a bit bloodless, like there’s no heart beating inside of this perfectly crafted show.

Also, I’m just not high-art enough to give an eff about a former slave owner/Confederate soldier’s need for revenge. Other than looking really good in a graying beard (you probably didn’t even recognize Anson Mount as the pretty guy love interest from CROSSROADS, the 2002 Shonda Rhimes-penned Britney Spears movie you saw that one night on cable, but don’t like to admit you liked), there’s nothing to really recommend him as a character. You, sirrah, or no Timothy Olyphant.

People of Color? Lots This show nailed it for diversity. I’m only hoping they also bring Asian railroad workers in at a later date. Would love to see that perspective, too.

Report Card

Show B+ Diversity A

Worth Watching?

I think so. I’m hoping that the new luxury car smell comes off in future episodes, so that I can actually connect with it on more than a mind level.