There’s always been one universally accepted and unwritten rule of television scheduling that’s not in the Network Executiving for Dummies book: Don’t schedule new primetime programming on Saturday. Just don’t! Saturday is the day when Americans go out and spend all night being Americans and celebrating the freedom of the weekend, according to conventional wisdom. No one is even home to watch television, so just air infomercials and aging sketch shows (and Rules of Engagement).
But conventional wisdom doesn’t set trends, conventional wisdom isn’t a maverick, and conventional wisdom can suck it, says AMC. The basic cable network announced today that it’s moving its Western drama Hell on Wheels to Saturdays for the show’s third season, which premieres Saturday, August 3. Though banishment to Saturday is usually seen as a death sentence, this is is in no way a demotion for Hell on Wheels. According to AMC, the idea is to make Hells on Wheels the capper on the network’s longstanding tradition of airing Western movies on Saturdays.
“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,” AMC president Charlie Collier said in the network’s official statement. Oh sure, but what’s going to be the cowboy, Mr. Collier?
AMC’s move could be about more than just keeping a consistent theme, however. Television’s exponential growth in the last five years has meant a more crowded schedule from Sunday to Friday. Sunday night, where AMC normally programs its scripted originals, is a murderer’s row of quality television, and there isn’t a different day of the work week that’s particularly inviting for new shows. Logically, branching out to Saturdays makes sense with the economy keeping people inside more often on the weekends, DVRs time-shifting shows on viewers’ schedules, and viewers’ growing preference of online streaming. And Hell on Wheels, one of AMC’s lower-profile scripted dramas, is the perfect show to experiment with.
Jennifer Ferrin, who’s currently pursuing Kevin Bacon on The Following, is joining the third season of Hell on Wheels as a series regular, TVLine has learned exclusively.
The actress will play Louise Ellison, a smart, witty and flirtatious journalist hired by the New York Sun to cover the “story of the century” — the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. Louise imbues her work with an element of human emotion as well as thorough, blunt, truthful fact-finding. She is strong and independent and demands to be treated with the same respect that any man in her position would be given.
The gig reunites Ferrin with her former Cape EP John Wirth, who was recently named Wheels‘ new showrunner.
In addition to The Following and The Cape, Ferrin’s resume includes stints on CBS’ late soap As the World Turns and ABC’s Life on Mars.
AMC’s period Western is slated to kick off its 10-episode third season this summer.
There is some behind-the-scenes drama on AMC‘s Hell On Wheels. The Western drama on Monday was given a 10-episode third-season renewal, but it was picked up without its creators/executive producers Joe and Tony Gayton, who left their day-to-day duties on the show when their contract was not renewed. (They may consult.) At the time, AMC said John Shiban would continue as executive producer/showrunner. Now I hear that veteran showrunner Shiban has informed the network that he won’t be coming back after two years on the show. As a result, I hear Hell On Wheels‘ pickup has been put on hold until a new showrunner is found.
This is the latest AMC series hit by major creator/showrunner departures. The Walking Dead‘s Frank Darabont left in Season 2, Rubicon creator/exec producer Jason Horwitch exited during production on its first and only season, and Hell On Wheels now is looking to continue without its creators and showrunner. Before joining Hell On Wheels, The X Files alum Shiban worked as a consulting producer on another AMC series from a former X Files writer-producer, Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad.
Hell On Wheels wrapped its second season earlier this month with a solid average of 2.4 million viewers. That was down from the average of 3 million viewers for the show’s freshman season — but this time around, Hell On Wheels did not have blockbuster The Walking Dead as a lead-in and was impacted by the lack of AMC carriage on Dish Network. Hell On Wheels, from Entertainment One and Endemol USA, is exec produced by Jeremy Gold and David Von Ancken.
AMC has renewed Hell On Wheels for a 10 episode third season, Deadline reports.