Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: The power vacuum at the top of AMC‘s Hell On Wheels has been filled. Veteran John Wirth has been tapped as executive producer/showrunner of the the Western drama. With him on board, the series, from Entertainment One, Endemol USA and Nomadic Pictures, is back on track with a third season renewal, and will proceed with production on 10 new episodes to premiere in third quarter of 2013. Wirth’s start date is undetermined as he is wrapping up his services on TNT’s Falling Skies where he has been working as consultant. “As we gear up for season three of Hell On Wheels we are pleased to have such an accomplished showrunner as John Wirth join our team,” said Susie Fitzgerald, AMC’s SVP of scripted development and current programming. “With the help of our partners at Entertainment One, Endemol and Nomadic, we look forward to a new season of the poetic and pulpy adventures of Cullen Bohannan and the other characters as they build the railroad across the US.”

A month and a half ago, Hell On Wheels, starring Anson Mount and Colm Meaney, was was given a 10-episode third-season renewal, with creators/executive producers Joe and Tony Gayton leaving after their contract was not renewed. Shortly thereafter, executive producer/showrunner John Shiban informed the network that he won’t be coming back after two years at the helm. As a result, Hell On Wheels‘ pickup was put on hold until a new showrunner was found. AMC, eOne and Endemol met with several established writer-producers, ultimately going with Wirth. WME-repped Wirth previously served as showrunner of NBC’s The Cape and co-showrunner on The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Centered on the lawless town known as “Hell on Wheels,” that travels with and services the construction of the first transcontinental railroad, the series examines the railroad’s institutionalized greed and corruption, the immigrant experience and the plight of the newly emancipated African-Americans during reconstruction. The second season of Hell on Wheels wrapped its run in October with a solid average of 2.4 million viewers (3.2 million viewers in Live+7). That was down from the average of 3 million viewers for the show’s freshman season — but this time around, the Western did not have blockbuster The Walking Dead as a lead-in and was impacted by the lack of AMC carriage on Dish Network.

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