There's always been one universally accepted and unwritten rule of television scheduling that's not in the Network Executiving for Dummies book: Don't schedule new primetime programming on Saturday. Just don't! Saturday is the day when Americans go out and spend all night being Americans and celebrating the freedom of the weekend, according to conventional wisdom. No one is even home to watch television, so just air infomercials and aging sketch shows (and Rules of Engagement).
But conventional wisdom doesn't set trends, conventional wisdom isn't a maverick, and conventional wisdom can suck it, says AMC. The basic cable network announced today that it's moving its Western drama Hell on Wheels to Saturdays for the show's third season, which premieres Saturday, August 3. Though banishment to Saturday is usually seen as a death sentence, this is is in no way a demotion for Hell on Wheels. According to AMC, the idea is to make Hells on Wheels the capper on the network's longstanding tradition of airing Western movies on Saturdays.
"A new episode of Hell on Wheels on Saturday night after a full day of Western fan favorites is going to be like the saddle on top of the horse," AMC president Charlie Collier said in the network's official statement. Oh sure, but what's going to be the cowboy, Mr. Collier?
AMC's move could be about more than just keeping a consistent theme, however. Television's exponential growth in the last five years has meant a more crowded schedule from Sunday to Friday. Sunday night, where AMC normally programs its scripted originals, is a murderer's row of quality television, and there isn't a different day of the work week that's particularly inviting for new shows. Logically, branching out to Saturdays makes sense with the economy keeping people inside more often on the weekends, DVRs time-shifting shows on viewers' schedules, and viewers' growing preference of online streaming. And Hell on Wheels, one of AMC's lower-profile scripted dramas, is the perfect show to experiment with.