AMC’s Upfront Slate: Network Takes a Crack at Scripted Comedy

New projects From Seth Rogen, Daily Show's Wyatt Cenac

Having established itself as the home of hit drama series like Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, AMC is looking to crash its way into the comedy business.

On the eve of its March 27 upfront presentation in New York, the cable net revealed that it has four scripted comedy series on tap for 2015 and beyond. Among these are Sober Buddies, a slacker substance abuse comedy from executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Knocked Up, Superbad, Pineapple Express) and an untitled project written by and starring John Leguizamo.

Per the central conceit of Sober Buddies, a washed-up surfer is enlisted to help keep the scion of a wealthy industrialist from bingeing on drugs and alcohol. Trouble is, the life coach likes to get pretty twisted himself. (If nothing else, this could be a great opportunity for AMC’s sales team to nail down integrations with the likes of Maker’s Mark and Jose Cuervo.)

Loosely based on the comic actor’s life, Leguizamo’s show focuses on a group of men from the outer boroughs and Upper Manhattan as they wrestle with the heartache and the thousand natural shocks of middle age.

Also in the hopper is the black comedy Random Acts, which focuses on a pair of female contract killers in L.A.’s Echo Park, and the ensemble comedy No Money Down, which is written and produced by star Wyatt Cenac (The Daily Show).

AMC will likely pick up at least two comedy pilots, as it currently does not own the rights to any off-net sitcoms. (Given broadcast’s seeming inability to keep new comedies alive for more than a few seasons, there is a paucity of sitcoms in the syndication pipeline.)

The network took its first step toward developing its own scripted comedy series in green-lighting a pilot for the period piece We Hate Paul Revere. Written, executive produced and starring Ethan Sandler and Adrian Wenner (My Boys, Whitney), Paul Revere is slated to begin shooting in the third quarter, for consideration for a spot on AMC’s 2015 roster.  

“In We Hate Paul Revere, we’ll explore the characters that history forgot,” said Joel Stillerman, AMC’s evp of original programming, production and digital content, by way of explaining the gist of the series. “For more than 200 years, Paul Revere has had a pretty good ride. It’s about time someone took him down a peg!”

(For what it’s worth, Paul Revere is a total asshole in the game Assassin’s Creed.)

Of course, AMC is still “coming heavy” on the drama front, lining up seven new scripted one-hour shows. Among the most intriguing are Chris Carter’s Area 51, which finds the X-Files creator hopping back into the nexus of conspiracy theory and the supernatural. Also on tap are writer and executive producer Michael Tolkin’s (The Player) Police State, Amy Lippman’s (Masters of Sex) utopian drama Paradise Lost and The Kingmakers, which is based on the French series Les Hommes de L’Ombre.

The latter series marks AMC’s first outing with writer/EP Tom Kelly (Copper), with whom the network has a broad development deal in place.

Among the unscripted projects in development are the self-explanatory Untitled Billy Corgan Wrestling Project, which documents the Smashing Pumpkins front man as he assumes creative oversight of an independent grappling company, Resistance Pro, and Bronx Pop, a candid look at a pair of entreprenuerial tough guys who try to launch a soft drink company in the Boogie Down borough.

Speaking of unscripted fare, AMC has renewed Kevin Smith’s Comic Book Men for a fourth season and will develop a late night chat show, Hollywood Babble-On, for the garrulous auteur.

“This was, by all meaningful measures, the most successful year in AMC’s history, and we are building on this momentum in every imaginable way,” said AMC president Charlie Collier. “AMC is introducing more hours of original programming and the most robust, diverse development slate in our network’s history.”

Collier went on to add that AMC would continue to traffic in top-tier dramatic series while it “happily dive[s] head-first into our first-ever scripted comedy pilot. … It is a personal point of pride for all of us to be working with a roster of such creative, talented and successful professionals, many of whom are entrusting us with personal passion projects. We appreciate their confidence and look forward to working collaboratively to bring their visions to fruition.” 

AMC will formally present its upfront slate on Thursday, March 27, at New York’s Pier 36/Basketball City.

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