OFFICIAL: Season Three Of ‘Hell On Wheels’ Confirmed By AMC

About two months ago we announced that Hell on Wheels had be renewed by AMC for a third season… then we announced that the renewal had been put on hold with the departure of showrunner, John Shiban.  Well, it’s game-on, again, as the Western series has found a new showrunner in John Wirth.

Via Press Releases:

AMC RENEWS “Hell On Wheels”




New York, NY – December 12, 2012 – AMC announced today the renewal of “Hell On Wheels” for a third season with John Wirth (“V” “Fallen Skies” “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”) serving as executive producer and showrunner. Season three of the series has been greenlit for ten, one-hour episodes and is scheduled to premiere in third quarter 2013.

Centered on the lawless town known as “Hell On Wheels,” that travels with and services the construction of the first transcontinental railroad, the series examines the railroad’s institutionalized greed and corruption, the immigrant experience and the plight of the newly emancipated African-Americans during reconstruction. “Hell On Wheels” second season wrapped in October with an average of 2.4 million viewers and 3.2 million viewers with Live plus 7.

“As we gear up for season three of ‘Hell On Wheels’ we are pleased to have such an accomplished show runner as John Wirth join our team,” said Susie Fitzgerald, AMC’s SVP of scripted development and current programming. “With the help of our partners at Entertainment One, Endemol and Nomadic, we look forward to a new season of the poetic and pulpy adventures of Cullen Bohannan and the other characters as they build the railroad across the US.”

“We’re delighted to continue our relationship with AMC, Endemol and Nomadic Pictures,” said Michael Rosenberg, Executive VP, US Scripted Television, Entertainment One Television. “John Wirth is an incredible talent who will drive our roaring series and build on the strength and success of the ‘Hell on Wheels’ brand.”

“We look forward to unveiling the next riveting chapter in the complex lives of the denizens of ‘Hell on Wheels,’” said Jeremy Gold, Head of Creative Affairs, Endemol Studios and executive producer, “Hell on Wheels.” “We are delighted that John Wirth will be joining us on this remarkable journey. John is a proven showrunner with a terrific voice and a deep passion for our show,” Gold concluded.

“Hell on Wheels” stars Anson Mount as former confederate soldier Cullen Bohannan, who is struggling to escape his demons from the recently fought Civil War. Colm Meaney stars as Thomas “doc” Durant, a greedy entrepreneur taking full advantage of the changing times, and musician/actor Common is Elam Ferguson, an emancipated slave working to achieve true freedom in a work entrenched in prejudice. “Hell on Wheels” received a 2012 Emmy nomination for outstanding original main title theme music.

“Hell on Wheels” was developed by Endemol USA and is produced by Entertainment One (eOne) and Nomadic Pictures. Endemol Studios’ Head of Creative Affairs Jeremy Gold serves as executive producer. eOne’s Television CEO John Morayniss and EVP US scripted television Michael Rosenberg oversee production in partnership with co-producers Mike Frislev and Chad Oakes from Nomadic Pictures. Mark Richard is executive producer. “Hell on Wheels” was created by Joe and Tony Gayton, who continue to serve as consultants on the series.

AMC’s EVP of original programming, production and digital content Joel Stillerman, Susie Fitzgerald and Jason Fisher, svp of production oversee “Hell on Wheels.”

Through an international distribution partnership, Endemol USA holds television distribution rights for the series across Europe and eOne handles rights in all remaining territories as well as worldwide rights for DVD/Blu-ray, VOD and Digital distribution.

Shot on location in Alberta, Canada, the series is produced with assistance of the Government of Alberta, Alberta Film Development Program.


AMC reigns as the only cable network in history to ever win the Emmy® Award for Outstanding Drama Series four years in a row. Whether commemorating favorite films from every genre and decade or creating acclaimed original programming, the AMC experience is an uncompromising celebration of great stories. AMC’s original stories include “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead” and “Hell on Wheels.” AMC further demonstrates its commitment to the art of storytelling with its slate of unscripted original series, as well as curated movie franchises like AMC’s Can’t Get Enough and AMC’s Crazy About. AMC is owned and operated by AMC Networks Inc. and its sister networks include IFC, Sundance Channel and WE tv. AMC is available across all platforms, including on-air, online, on demand and mobile. AMC: Story Matters HereSM.


Entertainment One Ltd. (LSE:ETO) is a leading international entertainment company that specializes in the acquisition, production and distribution of film and television content. The company’s comprehensive network extends around the globe including Canada, the US, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Benelux, France, Germany, Scandinavia, South Africa and South Korea. Through established Entertainment and Distribution divisions, the company provides extensive expertise in film distribution, television and music production, family programming and merchandising and licensing. Its current rights library is exploited across all media formats and includes more than 24,000 film and television titles, 2,700 hours of television programming and 45,000 music tracks.


Endemol USA is a leading producer of television programming specializing in unscripted and scripted genres for network and cable television. The company produces the hit shows “Wipeout,” “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” “Deal Or No Deal” and “Big Brother.” Endemol USA is a division of the Endemol Group, a leading international content developer, producer and distributor of television and online programming. The company, headquartered in the Netherlands and the UK, has subsidiaries and joint ventures in 26 countries, including the major European markets, the U.S., South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Australia. Endemol is owned by a consortium consisting of Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, Mediaset Group and Cyrte Group. For more information, please visit Endemol is a privately held company.


Nomadic Pictures is a Calgary based production company developing, financing and producing features, MOW’s and TV series. In 16 years, Nomadic has produced over 45 projects and remains one of the most active production companies in Canada. In 2004, Nomadic won three Daytime Emmy’s® for “The Incredible Mrs. Richie” starring James Caan, Kevin Zegers and Gena Rowlands. In 2005 Nomadic co-produced AMC’s first scripted Original mini-series, “Broken Trail” (Robert Duvall, Thomas Haden Church), which went on to win four Primetime Emmy® awards.

REVIEW: Hell On Wheels (AMC – Sunday, 10:00 p.m.)

Hell on Wheels is a contemporary Western that centers on former Confederate soldier Cullen Bohannon, portrayed by Anson Mount, whose quest for vengeance has led him to the Union Pacific Railroad’s westward construction of the first transcontinental railroad. Developed by Endemol USA and produced by Entertainment One (eOne) and Nomadic Pictures, Hell on Wheels is created, written, and executive-produced by Joe and Tony Gayton (Faster, Uncommon Valor, The Salton Sea, Bulletproof). 

Hell on Wheels tells the epic story of post-Civil War America, focusing on a Confederate soldier (Mount) who sets out to exact revenge on the Union soldiers who have killed his wife. His journey takes him west to Hell on Wheels, a dangerous, raucous, lawless melting pot of a town that travels with and services the construction of the first transcontinental railroad, an engineering feat unprecedented for its time. The series documents the railroad’s engineering and construction as well as institutionalized greed and corruption, the immigrant experience, and the plight of newly emancipated African-Americans during Reconstruction. Hell on Wheels chronicles this potent turning point in our nation’s history and how uncivilized the business of civilization can be. – AMC

78 out of 100

So, thanks to Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and The Killing, we now watch every single show on AMC and expect that it’s just going to blow us out of our socks.  And that’s exactly what Hell on Wheels did… during the pilot.  Unfortunately, as good as the show is, it could be a lot better.  We honestly expected to give the show a perfect score of 100 out of 100 after the pilot but it hasn’t quite lived up to those expectations.

As noted, the whole premise of the story is that Cullen Bohanon is on a quest for vengeance against the Union soldiers that tortured and killed his wife during the Civil War and his quest leads him to ‘Hell on Wheels,’ which is the nickname of the roving camp for the Union Pacific Railroad during the construction of the transcontinental railroad.  Now, that’s enough to do a series around all by itself but what immediately happens is that the story becomes a drama about the ‘Hell on Wheels’ community, kind of like Deadwood, being more about the ensemble and far less about the protagonist.  Now, you might say, “well, isn’t that what happened in Deadwood with Seth Bullock?” and the answer to that question is a resounding, “no.”  Deadwood was an ensemble piece from the beginning and though Bullock was the hero, from the beginning the show was about Deadwood itself (and let’s be honest, Ian McShane as Al Swearengen just completely stole all of Timothy Olyphant’s thunder anyway so the protagonist was basically negated).

Why this becomes problematic is two-fold.  First, the Bohanon revenge storyline is being woefully neglected and that’s the main reason that we wanted to tune in after the pilot to begin with and we keep getting disappointed that not more is being done to progress it week after week.

The second issue is that, ‘Hell on Wheels’ is just simply not as interesting of a community as Deadwood was and the story, which is no doubt intended to be, at least in theory, a character piece, seems to be far more event-driven than character-driven, i.e., either they aren’t developing the characters very well or they are just developing them very slowly and this strategy is hurting what is a very good show with the potential to be an Emmy winner.

To clarify, we suggest both character development scenarios because we frankly aren’t quite sure what’s going on here, whether there is a problem with the writing staff developing the characters or whether this is an intentional slow-burn.  Either scenario is problematic, though.  The first scenario doesn’t need a whole lot of explanation as to why it’s problematic, however the second scenario is a little more complicated.

The problem with cable television series is that they run a maximum of 13 episodes per season whereas the average Big-5 Network series will normally run 22 episodes.  To make matters worse for Hell on Wheels, its premiere season is only ten episodes. So, the writers on this series have less than half of the time that normally would be afforded to them on a Big-5 network series to flesh out the characters during their inaugural outing.  If the slow-burn approach to character development is in play here, it’s not very effective because we are 60% through the season and we really don’t know much about any of these characters and the plotline for the first season will be wrapped up within the next four episodes. We’re having a difficult time understanding how they are going to be able to do that and richly develop these characters in that short of a period of time which is a necessity for a show like this.  Futhermore, if they don’t, there’s not going to be a whole lot of excitement with fans of the show clamoring for the next season like there is on such AMC hits as Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Walking Dead and The Killing.

There are a few elements right now that, while they don’t overshadow the aforementioned issues, certainly make you forget about them a little bit.  First, is the trifecta of main characters and the actors that play them and the supporting characters around them. Bohanon (Mount), Thomas ‘Doc’ Durant, owner of the Union Pacific (Colm Meaney) and Elam, a former slave (Common) are the three characters that the show really centers around and all three of them approach the situation from such a diverse perspective that the audience gets easily drawn into the narrative.

As noted, the supporting cast is also magnificent with the two standout performances coming from veteran character actor Tom Noonan as Reverend Cole, the preacher with a very checkered past trying to bring Jesus to this den of heathens and Christopher Heyerdahl who plays ‘The Swede,’ the mysterious and creepy Norwegian (it’s explained that he got his moniker by locals that didn’t know the difference) head of security for Durant whose personal agenda isn’t all that clear.  Again, these characters and performances are all fantastic and all have a huge amount of potential, but they just aren’t being developed fast enough.

What else is right is that the premise and the storyline is very interesting, especially considering the real history behind it that really hasn’t been explored in popular media during any time that we can recall.  Like we said, it is far more event-driven than it should be, but the events do certainly hold our interest.  Again, though, the issue isn’t the story, it’s how long it’s taking to get there.  Hell on Wheels is very slow and plodding and if we didn’t recognize just how much potential all of the strong elements of this series had, we would have lost patience with it by episode four and dumped it.

We definitely recommend Hell On Wheels, not so much for what it is right now, but for what it has the potential (the recurring theme of this whole review) to become if they just pick up the pace a bit.