AMCs "Hell on Wheels" - 11/6

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Registered: 11-15-2001
AMCs "Hell on Wheels" - 11/6
Mon, 11-07-2011 - 8:51am

The latest AMC project to come down a now-literal track is Hell on Wheels, which premiered Sunday night with a pilot episode that attempted once again to jump-start a revival of that fundamental but faded TV genre, the Western. Alas, this post-Civil War saga, about the railroading of America starring Anson Mount as a vengeful Confederate Man In Black, lacked narrative steam.

Mount’s Cullen Bohannon is hell-bent on avenging the killing of his wife, but in the meantime, he hires onto the expanding transcontinental railroad as a foreman. He oversees laborers including Elam Ferguson, an emancipated slave played by musician-actor Common. The series is stuffed with good actors, including Colm Meaney as the corrupt rail entrepreneur (I won’t be the first of you to note that Meaney’s Thomas Durant is a bowdlerized, wit-excised version of Deadwood and Ian McShane’s Al Swearengen, more the fault of the writers than of the excellent Meaney), and Damages’ lanky police detective, Tom Noonan, playing a beanpole preacher here. Every character, however, is too one-note in the episodes I’ve seen: Common = angry; Noonan = eccentric, etc. The most promising character in the series may be Dominique McElligott’s Lily Bell, whose attack by and escape from some Indians provided the night’s greatest suspense.

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