AMC has greenlighted National Anthem, an eight-episode musical dramedy anthology series from writer/director Scott Z. Burns (The Report, Contagion), and Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul executive producer Mark Johnson. Oscar and Grammy winning musician T Bone Burnett (Crazy Heart) is attached as the series’ music producer with words and music by The Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn
National Anthem is the first series greenlit under a new multi-year overall deal Johnson has signed with AMC Studios, under which he will develop new series for the company’s Entertainment Group as well as other content companies.
Written by Burns, National Anthem is the tragically funny story of a middle class midwestern family tumbling down the ladder of American society; periodically bursting into song as they struggle to catch themselves.
National Anthem extends AMC’s streak of experimentation with genre and format. The network’s three most recent new series orders consist of a show alternating between single-camera realism and multi-camera comedy (Kevin Can F*** Himself, headlined by Annie Murphy), a two-season close-ended drama (61st Street) and animated drama (Pantheon), joined now by a musical dramedy anthology (National Anthem).
“National Anthem is a family drama with deep resonant things to say about the fragility of our country, our world and our planet. Plus…it’s a musical! In Scott’s genius hands this results in a hugely original, intense, funny and moving piece of writing,” said Sarah Barnett, president of AMC Networks’ Entertainment Group and AMC Studios. “We’re so happy to work with Scott as he brings this unique story to life and absolutely delighted to continue our creative partnership with Mark, who we have been so lucky to work with on some of the most critically acclaimed series over the last decade.”
Johnson’s overall deal expands his existing relationship with AMC Networks, where he currently serves as an executive producer on praised drama Better Call Saul. He previously executive produced AMC’s Emmy-winning drama series Breaking Bad, SundanceTV’s Rectify, and AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire.
“I still can’t believe that AMC and I have been able to assemble this dream team of storytellers,” said Johnson, who is currently producing Fever Dream directed by Claudia Llosa and the John Lee Hancock movie The Little Things. “We are poised to create something both singular and entertaining, told with moments, dialogue and song.”
Burns’ work in film includes producing the Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, as well as An Inconvenient Sequel and Sea of Shadows. His writing credits include The Bourne Ultimatum for Paul Greengrass, as well as The Informant!, Contagion, Side Effects and The Laundromat for director Steven Soderbergh. As a director, Burns’ credits include PU-239 and The Report. Burns also directed the digital series The View From Here, a collection of documentary shorts on the terminally ill.
“Craig, T Bone and I are thrilled to be working with Mark and AMC. We are so grateful for the chance to write about this moment in time and surround our characters with songs,” said Burns. “Sarah and Susie and everyone at AMC should be celebrated for their vision in saying ‘yes’ to this.”
Burnett also is working alongside his wife, Oscar-winning writer Callie Khouri, and Michael Lohmann on Disgraceland, a drama series based on the podcast of the same name, which is in the works at Kapital Entertainment.