Charlie Collier told an audience at the Television Critics Association confab in Los Angeles this morning that the network will be picking up its two scripted drama pilots—Halt & Catch Fire and Turn—for first seasons. It's the first time the network has greenlit more than one show at a time, and AMC is known for its conservative approach to programming.
But it's been on what, for the network, qualifies as a shopping spree—its new drama Low Winter Sun is set to premiere Aug. 11 with Mark Strong in the lead role and scripts by celebrated playwright Rolin Jones. Collier has been angling for a greater volume of original programming with an expanded unscripted slate—not everything can be an expensive prestige drama, after all, and some, like Mad Men, take years to build audiences. The new series order seems to suggest that the network is not backing down from what has become its calling card: high-profile, high-budget scripted dramas. After Breaking Bad ends this year, the new series will bring the network's slate of dramas to seven in total. There's also one more pilot still in development: Line of Sight, a co-production with Fox Television Studios.
It might be an exaggeration to say that AMC has money to burn, but since The Walking Dead has become the most popular series on television, broadcast or otherwise, it might not be much of an exaggeration.
The new shows certainly look likely to command high budgets. Turn is a Revolutionary War-era period spy drama set among a group of childhood friends who become espionage agents for the future United States during the 18th century. The Texas-set Halt & Catch Fire is also a period drama—one set in the 1980s during the computing boom. The title is jokey geek-speak for a command that stops a computer from responding to the user—originally a gag that came true, though probably no computers actually caught fire. (A similar joke command from the same era: "electrocute computer operator.")
Halt & Catch Fire is created by Chris Cantwell (who lists Funny or Die's reality show parody Vicariously among his credits) and Chris Rodgers. Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy, and McKenzie Rio Davis will star. Turn is created by Craig Silverstein (of Nikita fame) and will star Torchwood and Pacific Rim actor Burn Gorman, Tintin lead Jamie Bell, and Kevin McNally.
Both new series will premiere in 2014, with production starts later this year. The number of episodes ordered wasn't announced.