The Rise of AMC

Matt Zoller Seitz for Salon:

The other night I was catching up on a new AMC series I missed the first time around, the recently-cancelled espionage thriller “Rubicon.” I don’t know why I hesitated; between its muted, paranoid thriller-esque tone, its uniformly superb performances and its stunningly composed yet never ostentatious visuals, it’s a brilliant show — different from but equal to “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.”

And did you see what just happened there? I was looking for great series with which to compare “Rubicon,”and I immediately reached for a couple of other AMC shows. The only reason I didn’t add AMC’s “The Walking Dead” to the list is because it’s limited-run, six-episode series, and we’re only four episodes into it. But based on what I’ve seen, when the show returns for a second, full-length season (it’s already been renewed), I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up treating its title as a synonym for excellence just like all the others.

If I were spontaneously listing the best dramas on TV five or six years ago, I would have invoked a bunch of HBO titles: “The Sopranos,” “Deadwood” and “Six Feet Under,” probably. And maybe “Big Love” or “Rome.”

AMC isn’t the new HBO just yet. But it’s getting there.

Three or four years ago it looked like FX was poised to take the crown from HBO for most daring cable network and perhaps two years ago, it felt like Showtime’s.  AMC came out of nowhere, but is certainly where all the buzz is.  HBO, for its part, is still putting out quality shows, but it feels like eons since the cable giant’s golden age six or seven years ago.

All in all, though, Seitz’s analysis on why AMC shows are superior to FX and Showtime and on par with HBO is spot on.

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