There’s been a sense, I think, that AMC struck gold with Mad Men, its advertising-in-the-1960s product of an auteur that arrived very fully formed and confident in itself, and the network has struggled to define its identity since. The Walking Dead is a big, gross, violent popular entertainment that’s struggled to maintain its artistic equilibrium this season. AMC and Veena Sud managed the expectations around The Killing poorly, so a totally solid show left its audience feeling hugely betrayed. And Hell on Wheels felt like a cheap Deadwood ripoff, with the addition of a Wronged Confederate and a poorly-executed stab at racial insight. But Deadline has a list of the pilots AMC is apparently considering, and a lot of them sound pretty fantastic:
I hear the six scripts that made the cut this year are: Chris Mundy‘s Low Winter Sun, an adaptation of the New Zealand Gothic murder mystery series, Craig Silverstein‘s Turn, about George Washington’s spy ring, Richard LaGravenese‘s Philly Lawyer, about a law student, Jake Paltrow & Robbie Kinberg‘s Crystal Pines, about a journalist who gets cloned, Jason Cahill‘s F/V Mean Tide, about a Maine lobster fishing family, and Kerry Williamson‘s Sacred Games, an epic story of crime and punishment in modern Mumbai based on the novel by Vikram Chandra.
Concept-wise, I think Turn, Crystal Pines, F/V Mean Tide, and Sacred Games sound most promising. Turn would be both a new kind of period show and an answer to the dearth of Revolutionary War stories in pop culture, a weird omission I’ve noted before. And Washington’s spies were a fascinating group that included women and Quakers as well as your conventional breed of dudely badass, and they ran operations including my personal favorite, the effort to getting Hessian mercenaries to defect en masse by offering them land and getting them snugly with American women they then felt compelled to marry. Crystal Pines would be an awesome opportunity for a single actor to play two roles. The lobster wars portrayed in F/V Mean Tide are a real thing and would be a rich story engine in a novel setting. And I would love so much for a show set in India that isn’t Outsourced. Mad Men stands out because it’s a highly, highly original concept rather than a riff on an existing one. AMC needs to display that confidence again.