AMC Enters Unscripted Arena, Orders Two Docu Series From Top Producers

In 2006, movie channel AMC ventured into original programming with miniseries Broken Trail. A year later, it entered another genre, scripted series, with Mad Men. Now, the cable network is launching an expansion into yet another original programming area: reality. AMC has ordered its first unscripted series, Inside the DHS and The Pitch. Both hail from top reality producers, Craig Piligian and Eli Holzman & Stephen Lambert, respectively, and will be branded “docu-stories,” as AMC describes its take on the docu-series genre.

Inside the DHS, which is slated to begin filming shortly for a premiere in the fourth quarter, will chronicle the behind-the-scenes workings of the Department of Homeland Security and its personnel, including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. “We have incredible access, including working directly with Secretary Napolitano,” AMC’s SVP Joel Stillerman said. Executive producer Piligian of Pilgrim Films & Television and AMC will cooperate with the department on protecting sensitive information, and Stillerman doesn’t expect that to be an issue. “We’re not looking to do an expose of the Department of Homeland Security, we actually want to go in and look into the day-to-day (workings) of the people and what they do to keep us safe.”

The Pitch, executive produced by Holzman and Lambert from Studio Lambert, is set in the world of advertising and eyed for a 2012 debut. Each episode follows top creative ad agencies as they pitch a new account and goes behind the scenes as they prepare the campaigns and pitches. An ad agency is a familiar setting for AMC — its acclaimed period drama Mad Men takes place in that world. But that actually was not part of the consideration when greenlighting The Pitch, Stillerman said. “What drew us to the series was the incredible place advertising holds in our culture,” he said. “It is an incredibly rich topic, and The Pitch zeroes in on the most dramatic part of the process when the best creative people have to convince major brands to give them their business.”

Inside DHS and The Pitch illustrate AMC’s strategy in the unscripted space, Stillerman said. “The reason to go into unscripted is that we have a real appetite to expand our programming slate, and we think that there is an opportunity for us to redefine how it’s done in some ways,” he said. “Our vision for it is very similar to what we do in scripted: let’s start with where the best stories are. Where are the places that we find worlds that are inherently dramatic and culturally relevant?” Also part of the plan is to attract top storytellers in the unscripted space, like the producers AMC is currently in business with.

Like it does on the scripted side, the network only developed a handful of unscripted projects. It commissioned a presentation for The Pitch, while Inside DHS was picked up straight to series. While the network plans to grow its reality slate, there is no mandate to do so. “The plan is to continue in the arena and expand only when it makes sense,” Stillerman said. “The best thing is that we never have a slot to fill.”

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