AMC is charging into the scripted series arena, partnering with the BBC to co-produce crime drama “Hustle” and elevating programming head Rob Sorcher to exec VP.
In addition, movie cabler has commissioned a pilot from Nanette Burstein that takes her “The Kid Stays in the Picture” style and adapts it to celeb autobiographies for the small screen.
AMC also has greenlit fresh episodes of “Sunday Morning Shootout,” co-hosted by Daily Variety editor-in-chief Peter Bart, keeping the series on-air through episode 100, and has renewed gameshow “Celebrity Charades,” from exec producers Bob Balaban, Chad Lowe and Hilary Swank, for 2006.
Sorcher, who has been with the network as senior VP since his arrival in 2002, most recently engineered the deal for AMC’s most lavish original production, the $15 million, four-hour epic “Daughters of Joy” from Robert Duvall (Daily Variety, June 23). He will continue to expand the network’s slate of originals while heading up scheduling and production units.
He continues to report to Rainbow Entertainment Services prexy Ed Carroll.
“AMC’s on an unprecedented roll in terms of broadening the appeal of the network and bringing in younger viewers,” Carroll said. “We’ve seen networks try to reinvent themselves and wind up alienating their base. Rob’s artfully pulled it off for us.”
AMC has achieved record ratings under Sorcher’s watch, averaging 1.09 million viewers in primetime for the third quarter — a 27% jump from last year. Cabler also is up double digits in adults 18-49 and 25-54 demos.
Sorcher’s first priority in his role will be to kickstart the cabler’s scripted biz. AMC has inked with the BBC to license the first two seasons of Brit hit “Hustle,” a crime caper skein that the network is billing as a TV version of “Ocean’s Eleven.” AMC will act as a co-producer on the third (currently under way in the U.K.) and future seasons.
Though scripted series might seem an odd fit for AMC, the cabler has dabbled in the genre over the years. It acquired “Tales From the Crypt” and several years ago produced 1930s-set drama “Remember WENN.”
“Movies will continue to be the mainstay at AMC,” Carroll said. “But we are looking for shows to complement them. We think ‘Hustle’ is a good fit … for the channel.”
“Hustle,” from the creative team behind “MI-5,” follows the exploits of a group of London-based con artists. Alongside “Daughters of Joy,” Sorcher described it as a first step into more ambitious original series.
“The series itself plays off the conventions of cinema, specifically the spy/con drama,” he said.
Sorcher is looking to hire a couple of creative execs to oversee AMC’s scripted projects, several of which are already in development. “Hustle” will make its Stateside debut Jan. 14.
Meanwhile, AMC just wrapped production on the Burstein pilot, which will likely be greenlit as a series of specials in 2006. Dennis Hopper narrates his own biography in the style of “Kid” in the first episode.
Exec added that recently launched skeins “Movies 101” and “Movies That Shook the World” would likely return with new episodes next year.
Sorcher’s resume includes stints as exec VP-general manager of USA, head of programming at Fox Family Channel and exec veep-G.M. at Cartoon Network.