Gilligan, AMC high on drama

'Bad' good to go on cabler

Vince Gilligan is hooking up AMC with one-hour drama “Breaking Bad,” about a high school chemistry teacher who manufactures crystal meth.

Cable net has greenlit the pilot, which is slated to begin production early next year. Sony Pictures TV is producing.

Gilligan, best known for exec producing “The X-Files,” will direct the pilot and exec produce. Feature producer Mark Johnson (“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”) also will exec produce.

Pilot script, which previously was set up at FX, concerns a desperate man who discovers he is terminally ill and tracks what he’s willing to do to ensure his family’s survival.

AMC execs say they’re confident that “Breaking Bad,” should it go to series, will have the support of Madison Avenue — in spite of a protagonist who is both a teacher and a drug maker.

“It will be much more about the storytelling and the way we handle the material that will make it OK for advertisers,” net exec VP-general manager Charlie Collier said. “The story is about a guy who turns to a life of crime because he’s trying to change his life. … In the classic antihero sense, you’re rooting for him to figure it out.”

Rob Sorcher, AMC exec VP of programming/production, said the network is willing to take more risks because of its commitment to find “cinematic” series to pair with its arsenal of theatricals.

“Everything we greenlight will be auteur-driven. ‘Breaking Bad’ is very much Vince’s vision,” Sorcher said. “We want to be a creator-driven environment.”

Deal to produce “Breaking Bad” arrives shortly after AMC’s series pickup of “Mad Men,” a 1950s-set advertising drama from “The Sopranos” exec producer Matthew Weiner. Also, as part of the net’s big push into hourlong series, AMC recently announced its first scripted development slate (Daily Variety, Aug. 14); it’s still considering projects from William Finkelstein, Vic Levin, Phoef Sutton, Will Rokos, Steven Katz and Richard Kelley, among others.

Gilligan did the rewrite work on Columbia’s Will Smith superhero starrer “Tonight, He Comes,” to be directed by Peter Berg. He also has been hired to rewrite “Fly on a Wall,” a comedy set to star Will Ferrell. On TV, he created “The Lone Gunmen.”

He is repped by ICM and attorney Jean Tanaka.