March 26, 2014 1:45pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
AMC's Upfront Slate: First Comedy Pilot, Chris Carter Drama, More
With Mad Men's end in sight, AMC unveiled a 2014 upfront slate Wednesday that featured a number of scripted dramas and comedies as well as expanded unscripted offerings.
The network has ordered its first comedy pilot, handing out an order to We Hate Paul Revere and officially putting into development Area 51, from Chris Carter (The X Files) and The Walking Dead EP Gale Anne Hurd. Additionally, the cabler has inked Sons of Anarchy's Dave Erickson to co-write and exec produce its Walking Dead companion series.
"We're very excited to continue our growth in original programming over the coming year," AMC exec vp original programming Joel Stillerman said in making the announcement. "Along with some great new dramas, and our growing slate of unscripted series; we'll be expanding our brand of unexpected and unconventional original programming into scripted comedy. As always, we'll continue to look for unique creative voices to pair with passionate audiences through stories you'd never expect to see on television. We've got some terrific comedy projects in development, and are thrilled that we'll be making our first comedy pilot this year. In We Hate Paul Revere, we'll explore the characters that history forgot. For more than 200 years, Paul Revere has had a pretty good ride. It's about time someone took him down a peg!"
Written and executive produced by stars Ethan Sandler and Adrian Wenner (the duo worked together on My Boys and Whitney), We Hate Paul Revere tells the story of brothers Hugh and Ebenezer Moody and their struggle to find the recognition they believe they deserve as they live in the shadow of history in colonial Boston. We Hate Paul Revere is set to shoot in the third quarter of this year for consideration in 2015.
On the drama side, the network is developing seven projects from producers including David Shore (House), Jeff Pinkner (Fringe), Alexander Woo (True Blood) and Carter, who is behind a new version of Area 51 based on Annie Jacobsen's best seller. That project was first announced in July 2012 with The Good Wife's Todd E. Kessler attached to pen the script. The new version will be penned by Carter, with The Walking Dead's Hurd still attached to exec produce.
Here's a look at the scripted dramas in development:
Writer/EP: Chris Carter (The X Files); EP: Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead). Based on the New York Times best-seller Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base by Annie Jacobsen. A contemporary conspiracy thriller revealing the true story behind the infamous Area 51, America's most mysterious military installation.
Writer/EP Michael Tolkin (The Player); EP: Josh Applebaum, André Nemec, Scott Rosenberg & Jeff Pinkner. A dark comedic tale of Ollie, a big-box store security guard, who is secretly recruited by an NSA-like organization. Starting as an observer, a person who can see everything by manipulating our electronic devices, Ollie will rise to power in hopes of changing the system but will ultimately compromise his intentions.
Writer/EP: Tom Kelly (Blue Bloods, Copper); Co-Production with Endemol Studios. Based on the French series, Les Hommes De L'Ombre, Kingmakers follows a former campaign manager forced to get back into politics when his friend and current gubernatorial candidate is assassinated during a campaign speech. This series marks the first project in AMC's overall deal with Kelly.
Writer/EP: Alexander Woo (True Blood); Executive Producer: Aaron Kaplan of Kapital Entertainment. The fragile peace in present day Birmingham, Ala., is shattered when a murderer from 1963 is discovered and buried demons from the Civil Rights Era resurface.
Writer/Executive Producer: Michael Perry (The River, Paranormal Activity 2). Based on Mary Doria Russell's acclaimed science-fiction epic, tells the story of a Jesuit-led mission to make first contact with an alien race.
Writer/Executive Producer: Jan Oxenberg (Once and Again); Executive Producers: David Shore and Erin Gunn of Shore Z and Wendy Riche (Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County); Co-production with Sony Pictures Television. This drama follows Dinah, a commitment-phobic artist and the world's most unlikely caregivers she cobbles together an unusual and very modern family when she moves in with her boyfriend, his daughter, and her estranged father Jerry (who has early onset Alzheimers). Although Dinah thinks she is saving Jerry by taking him in, Jerry's unusual perspective on the world ends up saving Dinah, and the rest of the family.
Writer/Executive Producer Amy Lippman (Masters of Sex). Tells the story of a group of friends who withdraw from society to create a new, more positive community in which to raise their families -- but at what cost?
In addition to inking Erickson to an overall deal, the network has expanded its relationship with Ridley Scott's Scott Free (Galyntine), adding EP John McNamara to previously announced drama Raiders and ordering drama Strange Angel from the company. Ridley Scott and David Zucker will exec produce the project, based on George Pendle's book Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons, which AMC optioned. While a pioneer in research that had only recently been dreamed up in science fiction, Parsons' bright future gave way to ruin as he headed down another, darker path into the occult community of midcentury Los Angeles.
In addition, AMC is developing Outer Darkness, which stems from its overall deal with Stacey Sher and Michael Shamberg's Double Feature Films. The drama, from writer and co-EP Jim McDermott, is described as a grounded take on exorcism that explores everyday evil in an idyllic Midwestern town.
On the comedy side, the cabler is developing four half-hour projects, including its adaptation of Andrea Abbate's play Random Acts; an untitled entry starring, co-written and exec produced by John Leguizamo inspired by his three best friends; and No Money Down, starring, written and exec produced by former Daily Show correspondent Wyatt Cenac about an Austin car dealership. The three previously announced projects will be joined by Sober Buddies, from writer/EPs Danny Comden (Pretty Persuasion) and Barry Schwartz; Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and James Weaver (This Is the End) of Point Grey Pictures also are executive producers.
Here's a closer look at the comedies in development:
Jonesy, a loveably washed up pro surfer turned sober coach works to help Jason, the privileged, ne'er-do-well son of a wealthy industrialist. Together 24/7 in a sort of arranged marriage, the two will come to rely on one another since as of yesterday, Jonesy isn't exactly sober.
Untitled John Leguizamo Project
Writer/EP/star: John Leguizamo; writer/EP: Sal Stabile (Revenge); EPs: Jeff Golenberg and Sam Maydew of Silver Lining Entertainment. Drawing inspiration from John's real life, this half hour follows a group of men in Queens, The Bronx and upper Manhattan wrestling with careers, relationships, family, ambition, and getting older.
No Money Down
W/EP/star: Wyatt Cenac; EPs: Eric Fellner, Tim Bevan and Liza Chasin of Working Title; Co-Executive Producer: Daniel Pipski of Working Title. The comedy series follows a guy who bottoms out and begins working at an Austin car dealership with a variety of personalities.
Writer and Executive Producer: Andrea Abbate (based on her play of the same name); Executive Producers: Todd Holland and Karey Burke of Dark Toy Entertainment and Kenton Allen of Big Talk Productions. As single girls in their early 30's, Katie and Lisa work through issues with relationships, family, and growing up. As contract killers in Echo Park, Katie and Lisa work through issues with drug lords, crooked cops and unpaid debts.
AMC has also optioned three additional books with an eye toward developing scripted drama series. They are:
Somewhere East of Life by Brian Aldiss. Set in the near future, this book tells the story of a man as he tries to reclaim his identity after having the last 10 years of his memories stolen.
Silent History. Serialized, exploratory novel for iPad and iPhone created by Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby and Kevin Moffett; Executive Producer: Amy Lippman (Party of Five, Masters of Sex). Chronicling a generation of children born without the ability to communicate.
On the scripted front, the dramas join a development pipeline that also includes pilots Knifeman and Galyntine. The cable network is also developing an adaptation of graphic comic Preacher with Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Breaking Bad's Sam Catlin attached. (The network recently passed over David Morrissey starrer Line of Sight.
Wednesday's upfront news comes as AMC looks to replenish its original scripted programming following the cancellation of The Killing (which went to Netflix for a shortened final run), the conclusion of Breaking Bad and the final run of Mad Men in 2015. In addition to upcoming freshman dramas Turn and Halt & Catch Fire -- both of which will premiere in 2014 -- the cable network is developing a Walking Dead companion series and Breaking Bad prequel (Better Call Saul), the latter of which will debut this year. Low-rated freshman scripted drama Low Winter Sun was also recently canceled but Western Hell on Wheels has become a staple and solid performer on Saturdays.
On the unscripted front is a late-night series based on Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman's live podcast Hollywood Babble-On, which will film a pilot; and a Comic Book Men companion series focused on Robert Bruce. (The flagship series has also been renewed for a fourth season.) Joining those is an untitled Billy Corgan wrestling project, a docusoap about soda and a docuseries exploring inmates' lives behind bars. Here's a closer look at those projects:
Untitled Billy Corgan Wrestling Project
Produced by Left/Right, LLC (Small Town Security, This American Life, Mob Wives); EPs: Banks Tarver, Ken Druckerman, Billy Corgan and Ghen Maynard. Smashing Pumpkins lead singer Billy Corgan pulls back the curtains on the pro-wrestling world as he takes over creative direction for the independent wrestling company Resistance Pro.
Produced by Richard Devinki Productions and Red Hot Poker Productions in association with Sony Pictures Television, EPs: Anne Clements and Mike Wittlin. A comedic docusoap following tough guys and lifelong friends Ralph Rubino and Nicky D'Angelo, as they hit the streets to launch an old fashioned soda pop company, Bronx Pop.
Produced by Custom Redtail Partners (The Devil's Ride); EPs: Chris Burke, Jared Cotton and Steve Stockman. A docuseries that takes a gritty, no holds barred look at life for both the inmates and the employees of the Pierce County Jail in Tacoma, Wash.