Vets reeled in to pen originals for network
AMC is ramping up its original scripted programming, signing development deals with Kip Koenig (“Grey’s Anatomy”), Michael Oates Palmer (“The West Wing”), Tom Fontana (“Oz”) and Karen Hall (“Judging Amy”).Net execs say their goal over the next year is to schedule one night of original programming per week. The duration of that block will likely extend to three hours by the end of the following year. AMC will continue marketing itself as a network devoted both to movies and to shows with movie themes, such as “Sunday Morning Shootout.” But it also hopes to bridge the gap between movies, which remain a savvy financial investment, and original content, which generates buzz and can bring in a new crop of viewers. “Everything we’re doing is making a link back to movies,” said exec veep of programming and production Rob Sorcher, describing the scheduling of the original programming, which often will air together with similarly themed pics. Storytelling will also follow a more cinematic model as narrative unfolds at a more restrained pace. “We’re approaching these more like movies being shown on TV rather than like TV shows,” said Christina Wayne, veep of scripted programming. Among the shows AMC has put into development are “Continuum,” a sci-fi thriller created by Fontana, who is also Barry Levinson’s sometime creative partner. Net is also developing horror series “Buried,” from “The Last Supper” helmer Stacy Title and Jonathan Penner; “Welcome to Bedlam,” from Koenig and David Semel (“American Dreams”); and “Vows,” from TV vet Karen Hall (“Roseanne,” “Judging Amy”). Other shows are “The Bannerman Solution” (Jason Rothenberg and Scott Villa) and “American Made” (Adam Glass, Bob Cooper and Orin Woinsky). Perhaps the most secretive project is war series “Gonzo,” being developed with “The West Wing” and “Shark” scribe Michael Oates Palmer. Execs declined to offer specifics or even say in which war the show would be set, but it’s believed the series would tackle military themes through the prism of war journalism. While all the deals are strictly for development, execs said it was likely at least two of the projects could be greenlit to series over the next year. AMC is in about 91 million homes and finished last year as the 18th-ranked net in terms of total viewers, according to Nielsen. But it hopes to join the rush for original programming that has proven both a media and ratings windfall for nets such as TNT and FX. AMC has dabbled in scripted programs previously: It’s about to air the fourth season of “Hustle,” its co-production with the BBC, and this summer it will debut the ad-world period series “Mad Men,” exec produced by Matthew Weiner (“The Sopranos”). Net also had a whopping success with its Robert Duvall Western “Broken Trail,” which last June garnered about 10 million total viewers on each of two nights and was last year’s most-watched scripted program on cable by a wide margin.