AMC makes deals to fill development slate


Following the premiere of its first scripted drama series "Mad Men" two weeks ago, AMC has inked a slew of development deals in the scripted arena, including a basketball project from "300" producer Mark Canton and former NBA player Rick Fox and a boxing-themed dramatic serial titled "Cutman" that is based on a series of short stories by F.X. Toole, the author behind "Million Dollar Baby."

Also on the slate are a Vietnam War-themed miniseries titled "The Things They Carried" from Fox Television Studios, based on the book by Tim O'Brien, and an untitled political thriller set in a prestigious Washington think tank.

"All of these are distinct in their own way," said Rob Sorcher, executive vp programming and production at AMC. "Once we put out 'Mad Men' and (last year's miniseries) 'Broken Trail,' I think the creative community quickly understood what we were trying to do, and they embraced our mission, which is to really come out with programming that (is) a future classic -- the kind where viewers say, 'I want to own the DVD of that.' "

As for the two sports-related projects, Sorcher said the AMC audience tends to watch a great deal of sports programming when not watching the network.

The untitled basketball project, executive produced by Canton and Fox, explores the on- and off-court world of professional basketball. Sorcher said it's too early to say whether Fox -- also an actor, who has appeared on such shows as FX's "Dirt" and HBO's "Oz" -- would appear or star in the project, but "he'll certainly be informing this project as we develop it." The writers are Bettina Gilois & Chris Cleveland ("Glory Road"). The deal was brokered by WMA. Fox is additionally repped by Adam Griffin of Kritzer/Levine/Wilkins Entertainment.

"Cutman," a one-hour set in the world of boxing, is from executive producer Nick Grillo ("Gods and Generals"), director and executive producer Ernest Dickerson ("The Wire") and writer Denis O'Neill ("The River Wild"). The Gersh Agency brokered the deal.

The hourlong untitled political thriller is from writer/executive producer Jason Horwitch ("The Pentagon Papers") and executive producer Joshua Maurer ("And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself"). Endeavor and ICM represent the talent. "This is a world you have not seen on television before -- it's not your typical spy thriller," Sorcher said, adding that the details are being kept under wraps. "We are purposely not being too specific about this."

Meanwhile, Sorcher added that "Things They Carried" would be "fronted by a name actor." The teleplay will be written by James Sadwith ("Cracker"). Sorcher said AMC is looking for "big event" miniseries in genres where the network already performs well and that have a "direct connection" to the movies that air on AMC, lending themselves to the possibility of monthlong programming stunts.

AMC recently garnered a personal-best 16 Emmy nominations for its first effort in the longform arena, "Broken Trail." Its critically acclaimed "Mad Men" debuted to 1.6 million total viewers July 19 and averaged 1 million viewers in its second episode last week. Next up is the January premiere of the new drama series "Breaking Bad," which stars Bryan Cranston.

The new projects join several previously announced original series and miniseries projects that are in the works. Sorcher said he is looking to order pilots in the fall and winter, with an eye toward a summer debut for another new series. He added that the network will look for unique ways to package and present its series. For example, starting tonight, "Mad Men" will be followed by a three-minute interstitial -- titled "Inside Mad Men" -- featuring the actors, creatives and others discussing topics addressed on the show as part of an effort to "further engage" viewers with AMC's programming.