Eclectic new slate includes two Westerns

Fresh off multiple Golden Globe noms for “Mad Men,” AMC is looking to build on its recent critical success with an eclectic series development slate that includes two Westerns, a drama from the exec producer of “24” and an hour from Mandalay’s Peter Guber.

According to AMC’s Christina Wayne, veep of scripted series and miniseries, net will pick up a pilot in January from among projects that have already been in the works; a second pilot, from this batch of development, will be greenlit in the spring, assuming the writers strike is resolved.

The goal is to add one new series to AMC’s stable in 2009, alongside “Mad Men,” which returns next year for its second season, and frosh entry “Breaking Bad,” which bows in January.

Projects include “Fort Smith,” from “24” exec producer Robert Cochran. Western revolves around Isaiah Parker, who polices the Five Points — comprised of five different Indian tribes — with his posse in the lawless post-Civil War West.

Another Western also in the works, from Allison Anders and Terry Graham, centers on Comanche leader Quanah Parker, who fights the U.S. Army for the rights to his tribe’s land.

Mandalay’s Guber and Elizabeth Stephens are behind the quirky drama “Uninvited Guest.” Penned by “Less Than Zero” screenwriter Harley Peyton, project follows a character who suffers from multiple personality disorder.

Then there’s “Greenfields,” written by playwright Nicky Silver (“Raised in Captivity”). Drama revolves around a psychiatrist who breaks his patient out of jail.

Wayne said the critical and cultural success of “Mad Men” has taught AMC execs an important lesson in programming.

“What we’ve learned is going with our gut works,” she said.

According to Wayne, AMC’s series will remain balanced between genre stories (such as Westerns, given the success of miniseries “Broken Trail,” or period pieces) and what she calls “curveballs” (think “Breaking Bad”).

The latter “are stories that just capture us when we heard them,” she said. “We’re willing to take risks on material that feels cinematical to us. They feel like one-hour movies to us, instead of TV shows.”

Tone and pacing will continue to distinguish AMC series from other skeins, Wayne said.

“A lot of writers are happily surprised when they get (script) notes from us,” she said. “We say things like, ‘You can slow things down.’ We want audiences to connect with characters so they feel invested in their lives. And we don’t need everything to happen in the pilot.”

While AMC will try to build on “Mad Men” with “Breaking Bad,” don’t look for a flood of original series programming from the cabler.

“Breaking Bad” will be the only new series AMC launches in 2008, with a second season of “Mad Men” on tap once the WGA strike wraps.

“We’re not in the volume business,” Wayne said. “At most, three series at a time will be on our channel. We’re purposely not doing five shows at once so that we can really get involved in the production of the shows.”

Following up on smash hit “Broken Trail,” Wayne also expects to greenlight another miniseries early next year, producing it next for airing in 2009.

“We’re definitely still moving forward in the miniseries department. We’ll probably do one every year and a half,” she said.

A correction was made to this article on Dec. 21, 2007.

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