AMC Abandons Unscripted Fare, Cancels Most Current Reality

Comic Book Men PR Image - H 2012
Ben Leuner/AMC

Comic Book Men PR Image - H 2012

AMC is making a major shift in focus, abandoning nearly all its unscripted fare with a renewed emphasis on rebuilding its thinning scripted portfolio. 

“Scripted originals are at the core of the AMC brand. Iconic shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead have driven AMC’s evolution into a must-have television network," an AMC spokesman said in a statement. "We are proud of our efforts in unscripted programming and the unique worlds we have been able to introduce, but in an environment of exploding content options for viewers, we have decided to make scripted programming our priority.”

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With the shift, only Walking Dead companion series Talking Dead and Kevin Smith's Comic Book Men will remain on AMC's schedule. Gone are all other current reality shows: recently renewed Game of Arms, Small Town Security and Freak Show. All other unscripted programming that was in development — including two other projects with Smith and one from Talking Dead host Chris Hardwick — are now dead. Producers will now have the option to find other homes for the projects, with AMC's full cooperation.

AMC currently has a beefed-up staff of unscripted programming of about 10 in New York and L.A. — appointing Marco Bresaz and Tracey Lentz to vps of unscripted on the East and West Coast, respectively, under senior vp unscripted Eliot Goldberg. The cabler does expect some staffing reductions in the department to come soon as it renews its focus on scripted.   

The two remaining series owe their success almost entirely to the strength of The Walking Dead, TV's No. 1 show in the coveted adults 18-49 demographic.

Renewing its focus on scripted comes as no surprise given the network's thinner output of scripted originals in the wake of Breaking Bad's conclusion and Mad Men's 2015 end date.  

The network this week renewed The Walking Dead for a sixth season — ahead of Sunday's season five return — as it focuses on rebuilding its roster of original scripted fare. AMC's original programming roster includes the second seasons of low-rated dramas Halt & Catch Fire and TurnBreaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul (already renewed for a second season after it was bumped from the fall to early 2015), as well as martial arts drama Badlands, which was picked up straight to series and eyed for late 2015 or early 2016. Western Hell on Wheels, which hasn't yet been renewed, could join that roster. Also in the works Humans, a co-production originally developed for Xbox. 

On the pilot side, AMC has dramas KnifemanGalyntine, White City and a Walking Dead companion series as well as comedy We Hate Paul Revere, in the works. Beyond that, AMC has high hopes for developing controversial comic adaptation Preacher.

AMC has not been alone in struggling to find a new reality hit. All cable networks have come up short in trying to duplicate even a fraction of Duck Dynasty's success on A&E — now, decisively in the rear view.