AMC Upfront Ditches Stage Show for Live Funhouse of Zombies, Meth and Mad Men
AMC's upfront presentation Wednesday night looked more like an attraction at a theme park than a pitch to advertisers, turning the 69th Regiment Armory in New York into an interactive tour of shows such as "The Walking Dead," "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad."
Each room was dedicated to a different series. In the meth lab of "Breaking Bad," for example, media buyers and clients got a taste of the finished product (well, a blue rock candy likeness, anyway). An office set approximated the interior of the ad agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce on "Mad Men." "Walking Dead" zombies lurked behind the trees and tents of an elaborate forest. And a carnival tent included a performance from the stars of the reality series "Freakshow."
"For those of you under 40, this is what an upfront used to be," Charlie Collier, president of AMC, said in a brief talk. "This isn't a presentation; we want you to have an experience."
AMC is opening negotiations with advertisers from a position of strength, at least when it comes to its hit "The Walking Dead," which beat the likes of "American Idol," "Modern Family" and "the Big Bang Theory" to became the No. 1 show among the coveted 18-to-49 demographic this season.
Ahead of the party, AMC said it has greenlit seven scripted and three unscripted projects, renewed three reality series and set the return dates of its summer shows.
Potential new hit: With "Breaking Bad" returning on Aug. 11 for its final eight episodes, AMC is looking to new series to fill the void. The network will debut the drama "Low Winter Sun," a detective show where the line between cops and criminals is blurred, following the season premiere of "Breaking Bad" this summer.
After-show: Following the success of the live "Walking Dead" after-show "Talking Dead," AMC is introducing "Talking Bad" to follow "Breaking Bad." "Talking Dead," which was also renewed, hit an all-time high of 5.2 million viewers for its second-season finale.
Unscripted: AMC, which ran its first unscripted programming block on Thursday nights this season, has renewed Kevin Smith's "Comic Book Men" for a third season and "Freakshow" for a sophomore run. Its three unscripted series in development are "Majority Rules," a docu-series focusing on the democratic process from All3 Media America; "All-Star Celebrity Bowling," an adaptation of a web series by the same name in which stars compete for charity; and "Cancelled," a social experiment tracking how far people will go for fame. AMC previously greenlit "Geek Out," which focuses on super-fans.
"The Pitch," the reality competition pitting ad agencies against each other for marketers' assignments, returns for its second season on Aug. 15.
Dramas in development: The network is working on "Ballistic City," a sci-fi drama about a former cop thrust into the criminal underworld of a city housed in a spaceship traveling to an unknown world; "King," a 1960s period drama about a man who sells his soul to a corrupt and racist political machine to win a seat in the Senate; "Ashland," which focuses on a family who moves to a small Kentucky mining town in 1950; "White City," which follows Western diplomats and journalists living in Afghanistan; "The Wall," another 1960s show, this one following an American businessman who becomes involved in espionage in Berlin; and two untitled projects. The first, from "Mad Men" executive producer Dahvi Waller, is set in the New York auto industry of the 1920s. The other, from "Flash Forward" and "The Riches" executive producer Tim Lea, focuses on a family torn apart by a repressive government in America's near future and an emerging movement for a second American Revolution.
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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said AMC President Charlie Collier told attendees under 40 years old that "this is what an upfront should be." He actually said "this is what an upfront used to be."