Musical Anthology 'National Anthem,' From 'Contagion's' Scott Z. Burns, Nabs AMC Series Order

Scott Z. Burns - Getty - H 2020
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As Contagion finds itself eerily relevant again, the film's writer, Scott Z. Burns, is doing something a bit lighter in the TV space as his next act.

AMC on Tuesday announced that it has picked up National Anthem, a musical anthology series from Burns, Breaking Bad's Mark Johnson, T Bone Burnett and The Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn. Johnson will oversee via his new overall deal with the basic cable network.

National Anthem is described as the tragically funny story of a middle-class Midwestern family tumbling down the ladder of American society, periodically bursting into song as they struggle to catch themselves.

Originally put in development as part of AMC's January slate, Burns penned the script and will executive produce alongside Johnson. Burnett (Nashville) will serve as the music producer, while Finn will contribute words and music. It's unclear when production will start, given the current the massive shutdown that is having a dramatic impact on all film and TV work.

National Anthem is a family drama with deep resonant things to say about the fragility of our country, our world and our planet. Plus … it’s a musical!  In Scott’s genius hands this results in a hugely original, intense, funny and moving piece of writing,” AMC Networks Entertainment Group and AMC Studios president Sarah Barnett said in a statement. “We’re so happy to work with Scott as he brings this unique story to life and absolutely delighted to continue our creative partnership with Mark, who we have been so lucky to work with on some of the most critically acclaimed series over the last decade.”

As for Johnson, National Anthem is the first project under his new deal at AMC. The pact will see him create and develop new series for the company as well as for outside buyers. The deal expands his longtime relationship with AMC beyond Better Call Saul and after he also exec produced Breaking Bad, Halt and Catch Fire and sibling network Sundance TV's Rectify.

“I still can’t believe that AMC and I have been able to assemble this dream team of storytellers,” said Johnson. “We are poised to create something both singular and entertaining, told with moments, dialogue and song.”

For Burns, meanwhile, National Anthem marks his biggest TV commitment. His producing credits include An Inconvenient Truth, An Inconvenient Sequel and Sea of Shadows. On the writing side, he has penned The Bourne Ultimatum, The Informant, Contagion, Side Effects and The Laundromat. As a director, his work includes PU-239 and The Report.

National Anthem joins a roster of scripted series at AMC including the recently ordered animated drama series Pantheon, Kevin Can F—k Himself, 61st Street, For Life and the flagship zombie thriller The Walking Dead and its two spinoffs, NOS4A2 and Dispatches From Elsewhere, among others.