Last May, The History Channel (or, as they like to call themselves these days, History) aired the epic six-hour miniseries Hatfields & McCoys. Boasting such stars as Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton in its cast, the miniseries was bound to attract some attention. What History got was a critical and ratings success.
The critics had largely positive things to say about Hatfields & McCoys. Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Hatfields & McCoys transcends the confines of its age by revealing the feud’s posturing, resentments and callous violence that mirror the dynamics of modern urban gangs…” Entertainment Weekly‘s Ken Tucker said, “…overall, Hatfields & McCoys is engrossing, and enlightening about a feud that proves to be a lot more than the bumpkin brawl of pop legend.”
The first night three part movie scored the second-largest ratings for any non-sports program on cable (second only to High School Musical 2 – no joke). The second episode garnered comparable ratings, while the final part did even better, with 14.29 million viewers. The show drew 16 Emmy nominations – a record for The History Channel – winning six, including awards for Costner and costar Tom Berenger.
The miniseries even led to a boom in tourism among the feud’s actual locations in Kentucky, and the film’s success led History to double down on lush reenactments of historical events like this year’s big hit The Bible and the series Vikings.