'Hell on Wheels'
AMC's Transcontinental Railroad drama has potential -- if it shakes off its "Deadwood"-wannabe status and becomes more than the sum of its parts.
For Hell on Wheels, AMC's ambitious Western, there's a lot of trouble to deal with right from the start -- present, past and future. In the present, the pilot isn't very good. It's flat, has flashes of action, then ends with a thud. Which, in turn, brings up the past. If you're going to make a Western, you're going to be compared to Deadwood, the HBO gem, no matter what you do. What Hell on Wheels doesn't need, at this point, are comparisons to such greatness. It's not even close to Deadwood. Period. But for the series to avoid worrying about the future -- when a staggering influx of Westerns is coming around the bend -- it needs to establish itself quickly and be compelling in a crowded field.
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