A Modest Proposal To Help AMC Out Of Its Programming Tailspin

Things are not going well over on AMC these days. Despite the fact that The Walking Dead is the biggest show on cable, profits for the network slipped 12 percent in the last quarter and most of that has to do with the network’s inability to find a new hit. Breaking Bad is over, Mad Men is heading into its final season after a ratings slip in the first half, and the network hasn’t had a break-out hit since The Walking Dead. On top of that, they’re spending millions on new shows and they aren’t panning out.

After a promising start, The Killing had a steep drop in the ratings and was cancelled twice (before being picked up by Netflix for a fourth and final season). The third season finale of that show ended with 1.5 million viewers. Low Winter Sun debuted after Breaking Bad in its final season with 2.51 million viewers but was cancelled after the first season finale fell to meager .63 million viewers. Hell on Wheels gets a modest 2 million viewers (on Saturdays), but there’s no buzz surrounding that show. Turn debuted in April with a lousy 2.1 million viewers, and the most recent episode has already fallen to 1.3 million viewers, which is actually BETTER than the 1.2 million viewers who tuned in to the premiere of the heavily promoted Halt and Catch Fire.

Granted, the 1.2 million viewers that watched the premiere of Halt and Catch Fire do not include those who watched the pilot episode during the two-week preview period, in which AMC had released it onto the Internet, and ratings will obviously pick up once DVR viewership is accounted for (Mad Men regularly doubled its viewership once DVR viewers were taken into account). Still, that has to be a huge disappointment, especially for what I thought was the best pilot on AMC since The Killing.

But there is potentially an easy solution to AMC’s woes, and it wouldn’t be difficult to implement.

AMC should give up on Sundays.

There’s just too much competition on Sunday nights. HBO regularly dominates that night in cable, the networks throw some of their best dramas into the competition, and Showtime usually has something solid on Sunday nights, as well. There’s too many f**king options, and AMC’s shows continue to suffer due to the multitude of great choices. Game of Thrones all by itself has basically sucked all the attention away from Mad Men, Turn and now Halt and Catch Fire.

Sunday night IS HBO’s night.

I understand that when a series airs is not as important as it once was thanks to time shifting because, but it does matter when it comes to buzz, hype, and promotion, or the things that help a television series grow. It’s difficult to raise awareness about a series when, on Monday morning, all anyone can talk about is the latest death on Game of Thrones. There are fewer recaps, think pieces, and break-outs on AMC’s shows simply because online media is focussed on HBO’s shows on Monday morning.

And yet, we have much less to talk about on Tuesday morning because overall programming isn’t as good on Monday nights. Look: HBO/Showtime own Sunday nights. FX has built a nice little niche on Tuesday nights with Fargo, Sons of Anarchy, and Justified, and the broadcast networks generally dominate on Thursday nights. AMC could give up on Sundays, and simply plant their flags on Monday and completely own that night as far as prestige drama goes. Monday is, after all, the second most viewed night in television (120 million viewers) behind only Sunday (125 million), and there’s only one program — Monday Night Football — that offers that much competition, and that’s only on 16 weeks of the year, and during those months, AMC runs The Walking Dead anyway, which holds its own just fine against Sunday Night Football.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Turn, but I probably would’ve given more of my attention to it if its only real drama competition was The Blacklist. Low Winter Sun might have fared better against The Following or Almost Human or Castle, and Halt and Catch Fire is a much better alternative than the return of 24, the only real competition (besides Louie) on Monday nights. And if Halt and Catch Fire had premiered last night instead of Sunday night, I’d probably be talking about that show this morning instead of the ratings woes of AMC.

It’s a frequent complaint we hear on the Internet: There’s too many shows on Sunday nights. Collectively, we just don’t have enough bandwidth to devote to all those programs. If AMC vacates that night for Monday, it would not only boost AMC’s ability to cut through the competition, it would also allow shows like Penny Dreadful, Veep and Silicon Valley to attract the eyeballs that might have otherwise have been devoted to Mad Men and Halt and Catch Fire.

AMC has some really promising shows on the horizon: Knifeman, Galyntine, Better Call Saul, the Walking Dead spin-off, and Seth Rogen’s adaptation of Preacher, among others. I think they’d all have a much better chance at succeeding if they weren’t competing with Game of Thrones, The Leftovers, True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, True Detective, and some of the promising dramas they have on tap like Brink, Utopia and Westworld. Selfishly, I wish AMC would move their original dramas to Monday nights, too, because staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning to watch everything that HBO, Showtime, and AMC airs is a pain in the ass.

It’s good for AMC. It’s good for the Internet, and it’s good for the viewers. EVERYBODY WINS. Please call your Congressman. Let’s make this happen.