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AMC Unveils New Development Slate

AMC announced four new projects it is developing, each designed to match a genre of feature film in the network’s extensive library. The network aims to premiere three of the four—a mini-series and two hour-long dramas—by 2008.

 The projects, a mini and three hour-long shows, range in subject matter from war to competitive boxing and are at different stages of script development. Riding high on its record 18 Emmy nominations this year, the network sealed deals for at least two of the projects after their backers saw its new original drama Mad Men and the pilot of Breaking Bad, the drama it’s picked up for January, executives say.

 Once known as American Movie Classics, the channel has steadily evolved from a vintage film channel into a more contemporary programmer, and has been ramping up that pitch to the creative community in Hollywood.

 “These are big clients of agencies that I don’t think knew about AMC before and didn’t understand what we were doing,” says AMC’s Executive VP of Programming and Production Rob Sorcher. “Now we’re on the short list of where you go when you have this kind of stuff.

 The mini-series is The Things They Carried, an adaptation of the Tim O’Brien book on the Vietnam War that is being written by James Sadwith (Cracker) and produced by Fox Television Studios. AMC gets some of its highest ratings from war-themed movie plays on Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day, and the network has said for months that it was eying war as a genre ripe for development.

Cutman, one of the hour-long dramas, is a serial about boxing based on the short stories of trainer F.X. Toole, who wrote the story on which the film Million Dollar Baby was based. The show is being executive produced by Nick Grillo (Gods and Monsters) and Ernest Dickerson (The Wire) and written by Denis O’Neill (The River Wild).

 The other two hour-long dramas, as yet unnamed, are a political thriller from writer/executive producer Jason Horwitch (The Pentagon Papers) and executive producer Joshua Maurer (Introducing Dorothy Dandridge) and a basketball show from Mark Canton (300) and former NBA star Rick Fox.

 The network expects to put out another list of projects in development in the coming months and to choose two of the series and one mini for the 2008-2009 season by later this year. The hope, says Sorcher, is to stagger the series so one new show would premiere in the summer and the other in January. The mini would likely premiere in Jan. 2009.

Mad Men, a stylish drama about ad men in 1960, premiered to 1.6 million viewers two weeks ago and dropped to about 1 million in its second week. Those numbers are good for AMC, although the period piece has skewed older than the network’s average in prime, with more than 60% of its audience composed of adults older than 50. Part of that is likely the result of viewers, especially younger ones, not knowing to tune to AMC for originals and perhaps being alienated by the retro feel of the show.