Move over, Spike. The Maxim-esque TV network, which launched in 2003 as the self-proclaimed premier network for men—and runs edited versions of your favorite curse-laden movies (Goodfellas without the f-bomb? C’mon.)—is no match for the best, smartest man-channel on TV: AMC.
AMC is behind Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead—three of the manliest, most celebrated shows on television. The Killing, a promising murder-investigation drama, debuts in April. Plus, with last month’s announcement that the channel is now tackling the “TV western,” it’s safe to say that AMC is consciously targeting smart guys.
The western, picked up for a full season, is called Hell on Wheels. While AMC is still working out its schedule, it looks like it could premier this year. The series seems like a classic revenge tale with a twist, with post-Civil War America as its backdrop. (It’s the story of a former Confederate soldier who’s out to avenge his wife’s death. He heads west and takes part in the construction of the first transcontinental railroad.) The series continues with AMC’s by-now-expected explorations of human nature and power structures.
It’s no coincidence that the channel has become the go-to destination for male-focused programming. Since the debut of Mad Men in 2007, AMC has been building its brand as a channel with the chops to attract young, educated, male audiences (I mean, how many women do you see in the promo spot, below? And that’s from 2009). With almost universally-glowing reviews (and some Emmys along the way) for its original programming, the network is poised for future success.
It’s interesting to see how the network has evolved since 1987, when it switched from premium to basic cable. AMC used to stand for American Movie Classics, back when they aired vintage films and plenty of Three Stooges and Little Rascals reruns.
With their new focus on original programming, the acronym should be reassigned. May I suggest “America’s Man Channel”? With a character-driven crime drama, a murder mystery, a good old zombie serial, a western, and the smoky, boozy tale of corporate deals and relationships that is Mad Men, the only thing the network is missing is a smart, well-developed sports show … something like ESPN’s nixed-too-soon Playmakers. Then they’ll really have the monopoly on manly TV.