AMC saddles up for ‘True West’

Network sets Western-themed reality show

HOLLYWOOD — AMC is developing what it hopes will be its first nonscripted primetime series, a Western-themed, docu-style skein from producer Brett Morgen.

Described as a multigenerational family drama, “True West” will follow a group of modern cowboys as they pursue a trade that’s quickly vanishing.

“We had been putting the word out very quietly but sort of consciously that we were looking at unscripted series, with the mandate being that we were looking for an unscripted series that plays like a drama series,” said Joel Stillerman, senior VP of original programming, production and digital content for AMC. “We’re not looking to do a competition show or one that’s heavily formatted.”

Given AMC’s past success with Western-themed projects, including 2006 multi-parter “Broken Trail,” Stillerman said Morgen, director-producer of the 2002 Robert Evans doc “The Kid Stays in the Picture,” approached the network with a project he suspected would be an appropriate fit. Project is still in the early development stage; Morgen is scouting prospective subjects and shooting locations.

AMC has made significant strides toward establishing brand identity over the last several years with critically acclaimed, Emmy-winning original dramas “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.”

The success of these series has sparked double-digit percentage gains in primetime aud for the network, but scripted series carry a high pricetag by cable standards.

Establishing a beachhead with docu-style series would offer AMC a less costly way to extend its brand even further.

“It’s certainly less costly than doing a scripted series,” Stillerman noted. “We really feel it’s just a natural way to extend what we’re already doing on the series side.”

Development of “True West” comes as Cablevision-owned AMC unveils a branding slogan, “Story matters here,” to advertisers during its upfront presentations.

Network officials say the catch phrase will help tie together a programming slate that appeals to a broad swath of audience types.

As part of the branding initiative, AMC is recasting its weekly primetime sked: Mondays will be female night, featuring films targeting women; Tuesdays will feature “Cinemania,” the network’s hosted interactive shortform program featuring sponsored trivia and wraps; Wednesdays will be reserved for action films; Thursdays will feature red-carpet coverage of current film openings during feature film presentation breaks; Fridays and Saturdays will feature rotating special-event programming, focusing on holiday themes; and Sundays will remain the domain of original series.

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