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TCA Roundup: Is AMC the New HBO? Is HBO the New AMC?

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The TCA TV critics’ press tour (which I will be joining next week) continued with its cable round yesterday, as critics and reporters heard from AMC, a critics’ darling that has recently taken some dings in its Teflon armor over the season finale of The Killing, ugly negotiations over Mad Men and a shakeup at hit zombie drama The Walking Dead. They also got a barrage of presentations from HBO, which has gone through a few “Is it losing its magic?” periods of its own, but is presently riding the dragon of critic/fan success that came with Game of Thrones. A few highlights:

* From AMC: The network announced that after Frank Darabont’s departure, The Walking Dead (returning October 16) will have Glen Mazzara as its new showrunner.

* The makers of upcoming railroad Western Hell on Wheels (debuting in November) want to distinguish it from Deadwood—but will take comparisons as long as they’re positive.

* And the head of AMC issued a mea culpa, of sorts, for the dangling conclusion of season one of The Killing, saying that the network failed to “manage expectations.” I think I have a new phrase to use in future reviews: “This show fails to manage expectations on ice!”

* Now for HBO (a sister company of TIME’s in Time Warner, by the by): there was no Game of Thrones panel, but executives were asked whether they would commit to seeing the series through the end of the (unfinished) series of novels that it’s based on. The answer was really a nonanswer–“We won’t stop until it’s ready to stop”–but this is TV. At its current level of success Thrones is in no danger, but if you want to keep it on the air, make sure your friends keep watching, and George R.R. Martin keeps writing.

* Miscellaneous new/returning series fall-premiere news announced by HBO (horserace drama Luck will bow in January): Boardwalk Empire (Sept. 25), Hung (Oct. 2), How to Make It in America (Oct. 2), Bored to Death (Oct. 10) and new drama/comedy/something -that-is-a-half-hour Enlightened (Oct. 10).

* That last title, by the way, is the story of a woman who tries to get her life back together after a breakdown and a subsequent spiritual retreat that leave her with a potent combination of New Age zealotry and instability. Dern and White took questions on the series, though gauging by my Twitter feed, people were at least as interested in his experience on The Amazing Race. Maybe they should have made Enlightened a reality show?

* Oh, BBC America presented too! There were sessions on Doctor Who and The Hour, a ’50s drama about TV journalism and the Cold War that is worth watching for in August, but I was most grabbed by the announcement that BBC America is making its first original drama. Tom Fontana (Oz, Homicide) will make Coppers, a police drama set in the Gangs of New York-era Manhattan of the 19th century. The concept obviously leans more heavily on the “America” half of BBC America, but I’ll take it.