Mad Men inspires more scripted fare at AMC
AMC already has one critically acclaimed and Golden Globe nominated drama under its belt with the brilliant Mad Men. A second new series, Breaking Bad, hopes to follow that success, beginning in January. Malcolm in the Middle's Bryan Cranston stars as a high school chemistry teacher who turns to a life of crime in order to support his family after he is diagnosed with terminal cancer. If it's half as good as Mad Men it'll be twice as good as most of what's on TV.
But not content to wait around to see how Breaking Bad does critically and commercially, Variety reports that AMC has no less than four more shows in various stages of development, including two westerns. Westerns haven't been able to find success on the broadcast networks in years. Now by "Western" I'm talking the John Wayne/Clint Eastwood brand of Westerns with gunfights and saloon whores, not the likes of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, which did find an audience but was a very different kind of show.
But the cabler is planning a slow rollout of these new shows, if they even all make it to air. Christina Wayne, VP of scripted series and miniseries, says to expect one new series in 2009 to join Mad Men and Breaking Bad. On the slate are Fort Smith, a Western set in the post-Civil War west, dealing with a lawman who policies an area called The Five Points, comprised of five different Native American tribes. The second Western focuses on Quanah Parker, a Comanche leader who fights the US for rights to his people's land.
The other two shows in development are a multiple personality drama, Uninvited Guest, and a drama wherein a psychiatrist breaks his patient out of jail. Wayne has indicated she likes taking the long shot and going with her gut on new series, such as Breaking Bad, but also plans to balance genres that have proven successful, as AMC's Western miniseries Broken Trail was.
Wayne also said that the intent at AMC is to keep things light, with no more than three original series on the air at any one time. The idea is to put more heart and soul into each series, rather than fill the schedule with more dreck than they can appropriately manage. She also promises to keep allowing writers to find unique voices with tone and pacing, a key discussion point in the way Mad Men is put together as it is very deliberately paced and low key.
At this point, AMC has won me over. Broken Trail was and Mad Men is simply fantastic. They've earned my interest and have joined FX as one of ... well now two channels on which I will at least sample every new series they produce. It's pretty damned impressive that a channel whose moniker is American Movie Classics can switch so seamlessly into making series and miniseries that seem destined to also be considered "classics."