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Trio of networks look to steal ratings with tonight’s ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ event

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In the summer of 2012, The History Channel debuted the three part mini-series “Hatfields & McCoys.” It aired over three nights during the Memorial Day weekend, won 5 Emmys and became the most watched scripted program in cable television history. Tonight History is back at it again, as they along with their two sister networks (A&E and Lifetime) present “Bonnie & Clyde,” however today’s round of reviews cast doubts on if the mini-series will be able to recapture that magic from last year.

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Like with any successful movie or formula, the talk of a sequel grows louder with each passing day. When “Hatfields & McCoys,” dominated the ratings, History went looking for its next big thing and that's where “Bonnie & Clyde” comes into play.

As with “Hatfields and McCoys” the tale of these two photogenic bank robbers is legendary. Responsible for over a dozen murders and numerous bank heists, the media hungry pair of crooks eventually met their end in a hail of gunfire. Yet many outlets including yesterday’s Los Angeles Times are noticing History may have tweaked its formula to focus more on theatrics and less on reality.

“Historical accuracy shouldn't be the expectation of anybody watching Holliday Grainger and Emile Hirsch play Bonnie and Clyde. This is pure entertainment.”

The other problem that “Bonnie & Clyde” is expected to encounter is that of being in the shadow of the 1967 film classic (of the same name) which was nominated for 10 Oscars (and won two). The epic action film earned acclaim for Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, while bringing the story to the mainstream in a way still remembered fondly by audiences. Today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer broke down the main differences between that version and this one.

“The film treated the Bonnie-and-Clyde story as a kind of American folk myth. Although the miniseries has its share of mythical touches and folklore flourishes, it's an attempt to be a more straightforward, less glamorous account of the headline-making duo.”

Still that’s not to say the mini-series won’t be successful as audiences love event programming. Take for example this week’s “The Sound of Music” which scored over 18 million viewers for NBC. What “Bonnie & Clyde” does have in its favor are two young stars, backed by two Oscar winning veterans. Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger headline as the title pair while William Hurt and Holly Hunter lead the supporting cast.

Hirsch shot to fame with the Oscar nominated “Into The Wild,” while Grainger has been dazzling audiences on Showtime’s “The Borgias.” Together these are two rising stars that have impressed critics and seem poised to breakout to the next level. Yes, they may not have the celebrity appeal of “Hatfields & McCoys” toppers Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton, but this is a different story set in a different era.

The real-life Bonnie & Clyde loved the attention given to them by the media which only fueled their crime spree. It’s actually ironic that because of that coverage, the pair was seemingly glamourized to the public, despite their grizzly crimes. However tonight’s mini-series will also look at the dark side behind one of the country’s most notorious pair of names and that is exactly what producers hope will keep viewers interested.

"Bonnie & Clyde" debuts tonight at 9 p.m. EST across The History Channel, A&E and Lifetime.

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