Beyond Saul Goodman: Where Does AMC Go From Here?

When You better call Saul was greenlit in the fall of 2013, it felt like a lifeline for AMC. The adventurous basic cable network had been catapulted out of obscurity six years prior, transforming itself from a movie channel called American Movie Classics into a zeitgeist-defining TV juggernaut. The double whammy of Mad Men and breaking Bad had challenged HBO’s reign as the Golden God of Prestige TV; the dazzling success of The Walking Dead only added the sense of a network on fire.

But on TV, you’re only as good as your next show – and AMC’s undisputed triumph was short-lived. By 2013, breaking Bad was ending a blaze of blue meth and trailer dust, and Mad Men was heading into its final psychedelic seasons. More importantly, few new AMC original series had been released (RIP Rubicon) reach the point. One Who Made It – an adaptation of the Danish thriller The slaughterfell through critics and audiences thanks to a botched end to the season.

Six seasons later Saul finally comes to an end. AMC has No project for other trips in the breaking Bad the universe though Bob Odenkerk has signed on for an upcoming AMC comedy-drama called straight man, based on a Richard Russo novel. And Giancarlo Esposito (Gus Fring in both Saul and breaking Bad) will star in a future drama The driver, playing a driver to a gangster. Saul is followed to the exit by The walking dead, which will conclude its 11th and final season this fall, leaving behind a series of zombie spin-offs including one starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

This year is a tough time for any network to lose its flagship shows. Cable TV viewers continue to cut the cord, and the streaming universe has become a vicious battleground where even juggernauts like Netflix seem to falter. So how can a niche cable network like AMC and its streaming arm AMC+, which combines content from sister networks Sundance TV, IFC and BBC America, compete?

“They were once the basic cable network, absolutely,” says a Hollywood insider who works closely with talent. “But if you look at them now,” it’s not. “A lot of agents will take projects in tiers. The first tier is your streamers and your premium cable networks…. AMC is not in that tier anymore. I wouldn’t even say they are often in the second tier…. will never be competitive when things get aggressive in the market because they will never double [financially] in any way for any type of project.

The guy responsible for keeping the network from becoming a zombie nightmare is Dan McDermott, president of AMC Entertainment and Studios, which oversees AMC Networks original programming and its streaming package. McDermott joined the company in early 2020, when the world was in pandemic shutdown mode, and has spent the past two and a half years accelerating the show’s development. He says they’ve doubled writers’ rooms for potential new shows over the past year and tripled the number of originals on the AMC+ platform — some created directly by AMC Studios, others co-productions with other licensed foreign studios or projects. All of this should culminate in a slate of 22-25 series that he hopes will keep audiences from gorging and draining their AMC+ subscriptions. “We’ll never have 100 million subscribers,” McDermott says, but highlights the company’s goal of reaching 20-25 million subscribers by 2025.

AMC places some of its greatest hopes in vampires, having acquired the rights to 18 titles in Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles and The life of the Mayfair witches series. The brooding blood party kicks off with Interview with the Vampire this fall, followed by Witches of Mayfair (with Alexandra Daddario) next year, and two more projects are currently in development. All are meant to be prestige affairs created by high-end showrunners like michelle ashford (masters of sex), Esta Spalding (Become a God in Central Florida), and Rolin Jones (Perry Mason). The entire rice verse will be overseen by Mark Johnson, an executive producer of many AMC favorites, including Breaking Bad, Rectify, Stop and catch fire, and You better call Saul.

“All of this Anne Rice series is going to be smart,” Johnson promises. “I hope they’re as entertaining as hell…but the thing is, [Rice] does everything possible to ensure that they are human beings. They have the same desires, the same loneliness.

Kimberly B. Nguyen