The comparisons between HBO's acclaimed western "Deadwood" and AMC's new drama "Hell on Wheels" are unavoidable. It's just too bad "Hell on Wheels," debuting tonight at 10 p.m., doesn't come out more favorably in that matchup.
The premise of "Hell on Wheels" is that a former Confederate soldier (Anson Mount, left) travels the land seeking to avenge the death of his wife, who was brutalized by a gang of Union soldiers. I think. He settles in a work camp helping build the Transcontinental Railroad.
From the beginning, the show feels all over the place. Every trope you've ever seen in any western is crammed into the first episode, from crooked railroad magnates to savage, scalping Indians.
It's grim and violent and ... boring.
AMC sent five episodes but I could only get through two, so maybe -- and I'm sincerely hoping this for all of you out there who have been craving another good television western -- it will get better. I can't even really pinpoint exactly what's bad about it other than to say I personally didn't find anything about it compelling or interesting (and I like westerns). The story is too scattered and I felt nothing for any of the characters. Watching that second episode actually felt like torture.
A new drama from AMC (home of "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men") is always highly anticipated, so it's possible my lack of patience for this one comes from my too-high expections.
Or maybe it's just not good.
Even though I can't recommend it, I will say if it's something you've been looking forward to, give it a shot. I hope you like it better than I did.
"Hell on Wheels" debuts tonight on AMC at 10 p.m.