Sorry for the long break between posts. Life kind of got in the way of both the TV watching and the writing. It was horrible!
It can’t have escaped your notice that I watch a lot of pilots. Generally they evoke in my some sort of reaction that I can cheerfully exaggerate for the purposes of extending a review from “it was okay” or “it sucked” through to 500 words or so. There’s stuff that I love, stuff that I hate, stuff that I can see other people might like but wasn’t for me, stuff that frustrates me because it’s making the most basic of errors. But Hell of Wheels defeats me. I can’t think of anything that I’ve watched recently that left me with such a complete and utter lack of response. I felt nothing. Not a thing. This might be a rather short review.
The concept is solid enough – what happened after the Civil War, how did the country come together? Through the railroad, it literally brought things together. But the building of it wasn’t easy and the people involved were in it for a number of reasons. It should provide a nice amount of material and a lot of stuff was introduced in the pilot – dodgy business deals, injuns, race relations and the obligatory character with a mysterious past and complicated moral standings. It’s all a little bit Deadwood (particularly Colm Meaney’s blunt speaking ruthless business man), but it’s different enough that it didn’t just have me running for the box set.
So there doesn’t really seem to be anything wrong with it. Yet I was utterly utterly disengaged. Couldn’t care less. It had about the same impact on me as listening to the shipping forecast – pleasant enough background noise but utterly no substantive effect on my life.
I do acknowledge this is a pretty useless review. I thought hard about watching the pilot a second time so I could make a better analysis of why it had this effect, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Other (more helpful) reviews
TV Fanatic – It’s a promising landscape and saga that I hope proves fulfilling. Sure, the premiere was rather slow, but it picks up speed in the next few episodes. Overall, there’s something to be said for trying to bring back the Western and I’m interested to see where the show goes. Let’s just hope it’s a train worth taking and not one that will end up far off the tracks.
CliqueClack – this isn’t Deadwood; Deadwood clearly had its draw and its points that were much better than Hell on Wheels, but HoW has also established itself in a way that will allow it to continue to be defined as a show that’s much different than Deadwood, and possibly a better one in some ways. I’m willing to ride along and seeing if it can keep be aboard.