Counting Money With AMC

I’ve seen the first three episodes of AMC’s Hell on Wheels, and I guess it’s time to say something about it. Firstly, I think that Mr. Durant is Michel Platini’s doppelgänger. Secondly, I’m a huge fan of western flicks so, whenever I see a cowboy moving in slow motion on a desert environment, it’s usually love at first sight. Weird thing about Hell on Wheels is that the leading cowboy, Mr. Superhot Bonhannon, moves in slow motion even when the rest of the world (his long coat included) doesn’t. Interesting.
Anyway, it’s good. But not really as great as I expected. So far I found it a little bit confused. The storylines are fascinating, but I feel like the writers don’t really know where they want to end up to. The focus shifts too quickly from one storyline to another , leaving behind blind spots and unsolved issues. Actually it seemed things were getting better on the third episodes, so I’m still full of hopes.
Now, let’s talk about AMC. Hell on Wheels is another high budget series, where technical proficiency has a first line spot. Just like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead. Partially Rubicon and The Killing too, but in those cases the plot ruled more than everything else. Though we all now how it ended up with Rubicon… And how I hope it’s going to end up with The Killing if they don’t tell who the hell killed Rosie Larson! That being said, let’s go back to the point. Can AMC really afford another series like these? I mean, yes, it’s basic ad-supported cable, so they kind of have the money to do it. But not to exaggerate because, after all, it’s not premium. I think we’ve all heard about the latest issues with the channel’s executive producers struggling against budget cuts. Matthew Weiner “won” two more seasons for Mad Men. Vince Gilligan ended Breaking Bad without any cut, threatening to move the show to another network. Frank Darabont got fired. I’ve been doing some researches (just to be clear: I don’t usually analyze networks’ revenues in my spare time. I did it because I’m writing my thesis about TV Series economics) and I found out that AMC original programming budget went from 123.3 million dollars in 2006 to 174.5 millions in 2011. And that was a bet already five years ago.

Dear AMC,

I appreciate every new series you bring us. But you should know that I usually grow really fond of those series, so it’s really annoying when you try to cut their budget or you fire an awesome executive producer AFTER LETTING THE WORLD HAVING FUN WITH HIM AT  2011 COMIC CON!
So, dear AMC, please try to behave. How about not adding anymore new series for a while, but taking really good care of the ones you already have?



9 comments on “Counting Money With AMC

  1. Jaina says:

    I quit Hell on Wheels after 2 episodes. Just couldn’t get into it and my attempt to be more ruthless with my TV schedule is kicking in.

    I didn’t think the show looked all that high budget though. I thought it looked a little cheap, for AMC. I wasn’t all that blown away by it at all. The last 2 new shows AMC has given us – The Walking Dead and this, have left me cold. Yet I’m still watching one of those! The last new one of their’s I loved was Rubicon and I still mourn its loss.

    I think AMC just need to concentrate on what it’s got for now. It’s great the network has been put on the map by the likes of Mad Men and Breaking Bad, but it needs to just not push it so much. Be happy for its success and build slowly.

  2. Jersey says:

    Seen in the basic cable context, I felt that the quality of this one is high. But you’re right, not as high as Mad Men or The walking Dead, This probably reflects the budget problems everyone knows about. So, the question is: can AMC afford to be premium without really being premium?
    I’m glad we agree on this point: the network should understand that sometimes “less” could mean “more”.

    BTW, I have time for Hell on Wheels because I dropped Boardwalk Empire. I’m going to pick it up again on Christmas time, I think.

    • Jaina says:

      I’ve just dropped Boardwalk Empire too! Though, not sure I’ll be picking it up again. Just getting lost in all the politics and not really caring at all!

      I guess maybe the small network that AMC is, they figured they should roll when the ball’s on the move. As it is now. And with Breaking Bad coming to an end soon, they feel like they need a new big hit.

  3. I haven’t seen Hell on Wheels yet, so I can’t give my opinion, but AMC has produced so many excellent series so far…
    Just a question, here in Italy we don’t have cable so I don’t really know how it works, just like our satellite tv or premium digital? what is the meaning of premium in youe post?

    • Jersey says:

      There are three kind of television in the States:
      – Broadcast TV: free (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox)
      – Basic Cable: you pay something like 30$ a month for all of the basic cable channels (AMC, FX, SyFy, Bravo, Lifetime, etc…)
      -Premium Cable: you pay A LOT for just one channel (HBO, Starz, Showtime).

      Broadcast and Basic are ad-supported so that’s how they pay for their shows (they also get some help from deficit financing, but that’s a long story). Plus, Basic gets subscription fees, so it gets more money than the Broadcast TV.
      Premium, instead, gets A LOT of subscription fees and has no sponsor pressure, so it has a different target and a different branding strategy.

      Hope I made myself clear, though it’s actually more complicated than that. You should have come to my lecture!

  4. Didn’t tune in to Hell on Wheels.

    I did see your “Letter” to AMC about Darabont though, and I will say, I dont know that S2 would have been much better with him at the helm. The series was a little inconsistent in S1, too. So if anything, I feel its been consistent in its inconsistency.

    I really just wanted to drop a comment congratulating you on scoring Springsteen tickets. Never seen him live, I bet it would be a great show.

    • Jersey says:

      Thanks Fogs!
      I saw him live twice so far. I’ve just scored a ticket for the Milan show, now I’m waiting for the Florence tickets to be available. Lot of money, lot anguish, lot of waiting… All worth it!

      As for TWD, I totally agree. But Darabont was a sort of symbol for the series and I think that firing him after the Comic Con was a bad move, not at all respectful towards the fans. That being said, the only episode worth watching so far was the last one, 2×7!

      • Agreed on the episode. Although I thought the one where Shane and the fat guy run from the school was good too.

        I’m pretty thankful I didnt go to that panel. It was happening the same time as Tintin if I remember. And you have to choose Spielberg, right? Anyways, walked by Darabont signing autographs though, got a good picture. That was cool at least.

        Have fun at Springsteen, I know you’re a big fan :D!

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