If Hollywood and major networks need any validation that historical dramas can be done and done right, they should look no further than the History Channel miniseries Hatfields & McCoys. Now, while I cannot be a hundred percent certain that everything presented in the series is historical fact, the one thing the producers pulled off successfully was in creating a very authentic feel in their depiction of 19th Century Appalachia. The writing, performances, cinematography, and music were all top-notch, and History pulled out all the stops to let people know that this was a program worth watching.
And all that hard work has paid off in a big way. Part One, which aired this past Monday, was viewed by a record-setting 13.9 million people, beating such shows as “America’s Got Talent” and “The Bachelorette” in the ratings for that night. Part Two aired Tuesday night, and was seen by 13.1 million viewers, proving the series was not a one-hit wonder. And Part Three, which aired last night, was viewed by 14.3 million viewers, cementing the series as a complete success. History’s decision to venture into scripted drama has proven to be a good one, with critics and audiences praising the show for its dramatic look at this infamous feud.
Now, what does this all have to do with To Appomattox? Well, it definitely helps the series, and other historical projects, in a tremendous way. These numbers show that there is an audience out there for historical drama. If a series is given a chance, and put in the right hands in terms of actors, producers, directors, etc., then networks and film studios have a major chance to present actual stories from our history in exciting and authentic ways. This also shows that there is no need for a great deal of poetic or artistic license. The real stories are dramatic enough, and if done correctly, can be as powerful and emotional as any fictional tale that can be told.
In closing, History has proven with Hatfields & McCoys that real-life stories can be told in a very dramatic and authentic way, and that there is an audience out there for these type of programs. It is my hope that the major movie studios and networks will look at the success of this miniseries, and begin to look at ways to tell these stories without overdoing it on artistic license. And when To Appomattox airs next year, it will prove that their are more factual stories from our nation’s history to be told, and can be done in entertaining and thought-provoking ways.