Hoops, Vietnam on AMC’s mind

Network plots original dramas

NEW YORK — AMC is pushing ahead with originals, unveiling a development slate that includes a fictional drama about pro basketball players from former L.A. Laker Rick Fox and “300” producer Mark Canton, as well as a miniseries adaptation of Tim O’Brien’s Vietnam bestseller “The Things They Carried.”

Net will develop an hourlong series about the on- and off-court lives of pro roundballers that Fox and former Warners studio exec Canton will exec produce. Bettina Gilois and Chris Cleveland (“Glory Road”) will write.

Fox, who had a 15-year career in the NBA, has had acting roles on shows including “Dirt,” “One Tree Hill” and HBO’s “Oz” but has never produced.

Net also disclosed that it will debut the Vince Gilligan drug drama “Breaking Bad” on Jan. 17. Show is set to go into production shortly in New Mexico, with nine episodes in total ordered by the net.

Adaptation of “Things,” which is considered one of the seminal books about the war in Southeast Asia, will be written by veteran TV creator James Sadwith.

Also on tap is “Cutman,” an hourlong series that will adapt the stories of the late author F.X. Toole, the boxing corner man whose short story became the basis for “Million Dollar Baby.” Nick Grillo (“Gods and Generals”) is set to exec produce. Ernest Dickerson, who has directed episodes of “ER” and “The Wire,” is attached to direct and exec produce, while “The River Wild” scribe Denis O’Neill will pen the script.

Also on the slate is an as-yet-unnamed political thriller series with elements of espionage, code-breaking and a secret organization; Jason Horwitch and Joshua Maurer, who were behind FX’s Emmy-nommed movie “The Pentagon Papers,” are attached to exec produce.

AMC execs say the short-term goal is two original series and one miniseries or limited series per year.

“We’re not a channel that has a history of original programming, so it takes time for it to seep in to people that we have this kind of programming on,” said exec veep of programming and production Rob Sorcher. “Once we have two successful shows on the air and an annual franchise event, we’ll be off and running.”

Hoops series will center around a fictional pro basketball league, which will give the cabler the creative freedom to depict players as the storylines demand. But the series could still be a thorn in the side of the NBA, which is especially conscious of its image in the wake of a scandal involving a referee who allegedly bet on games.

A call to an NBA spokesman was not returned late Wednesday.

Previous movies and series about pro sports including the Oliver Stone football pic “Any Given Sunday” and embattled ESPN football original “Playmakers” have also used thinly veiled stand-ins for the actual leagues.

AMC began its original-series initiative in earnest this summer with “Mad Men,” which debuted to 1.6 million viewers on July 19 and pulled in about 1 million viewers for its second episode last week.

While it hopes to capture an older audience with a development slate of minis and movies set in WWII and Vietnam — AMC is high on a Vietnam mini from “Apocalypse Now” writer John Milius — it also wants to become more contemporary with “Bad” and the NBA series.

Net overall skews a little more toward men with its action and wartime programming. But execs say they still hope to pull in women.

“You want things that bind all the shows together,” Sorcher said. “But the success of the network will depend on the diversity of what we’re developing.”

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