AMC is having a moment. The network heads into the Emmys with 34 nominations, the most of any basic cable channel, and AMC's best tally ever. Mad Men is on the cusp of making Emmy history, trying for a fifth consecutive outstanding drama trophy. Breaking Bad ended the first half of its final season with some of its best ratings ever, while AMC's top-rated The Walking Dead returns on Oct. 14. With so much going on, AMC president Charlie Collier talked to TV Guide Magazine about his network's fortunes.
TV Guide Magazine: It seems to be a good time for AMC.
Charlie Collier: We always said if we did our job right we would be premium TV on basic cable. I think it's a validation of our strategy. We're really proud of some of the risks that we've taken and some of the people that we've had great partnerships with. People think, and I hope they know, we'll handle the material well.
TV Guide Magazine: Can Mad Men break the Emmy drama record?
Collier: I hear that a lot of people think Matt Weiner and his team delivered their best season. I hope that a lot of people who have votes feel the same way.
TV Guide Magazine: Talk about the decision to split the final season of Breaking Bad into two eight-episode halves.
Collier: There's one thing [creator Vince Gilligan] asked for in our relationship: "Please tell me when the show will end so I can write to it." That's not always an easy thing to do, because of the cadence of television and when pickup decisions are made. We love that we've been able to work with him to find the end date. In terms of number of episodes and the timing, it came down to working with Sony TV [the studio behind Bad] and Vince to find the right number of episodes to honor the story and give him the time to write them in the way he needed. It worked out that we arrived at the numbers we have. I think this first eight pay off incredibly well, and we think the final eight episodes will bring this amazing Walter White transformation to an end in an appropriate way.
TV Guide Magazine: Do you know how it ends?
Collier: I know this. [Gilligan's] original pitch was, "We're going to take Mr. Chips and turn him into Scarface." And eight episodes into this final 16, I think you'd say that Walt has arrived. He is the bad guy.
TV Guide Magazine: How is Season Three of The Walking Dead shaping up?
Collier: This season opens up the world and brings the characters huge challenges in a way that is just remarkable. Those who have read the comic book know that Kirkman's original work was written as a character drama that happens to be set in the zombie apocalypse. They are doing the ultimate tightrope walk. They're serving the core fans who love that it's a zombie series, and they're serving the drama fan who loves great character.
TV Guide Magazine: Give me a report card on your new reality TV strategy.
TV Guide Magazine: Talk about AMC's development. You have two pilots in the works: An untitled legal thriller from Richard LaGravenese and Tony Goldwyn and Low Winter Sun, based on a Scottish miniseries.
Collier: The Richard LaGravenese/Tony Goldwyn pilot... is something that's smart and taut and a different look at everything from a legal thriller to questions of what's right in the death penalty. Low Winter Sun, we're shooting it in Detroit, and very much in the vein of Breaking Bad where Albuquerque is a character, we think it's a moment in time with the opportunity for rebirth in Detroit. We're shooting more pilots, we now have two at the same time; we usually do one at a time. But we doubled that, and on the unscripted and scripted side we're developing more than we ever have before.
TV Guide Magazine: The Killing producers are now shopping that show elsewhere.
Collier: We're incredibly proud of what we did with The Killing. We had a tough time with that decision. I'm not at all surprised that they would look to continue the series. I think Mirielle Enos and Joel Kinnaman are absolutely stars.
TV Guide Magazine: AMC Networks' fight with satellite provider Dish is getting ugly. What gives?
Collier: The biggest frustration is I've never had one conversation with them about pricing or about the customer. We were dropped due to an unrelated lawsuit that is truly out of my control. It's the best time in AMC history because of this confluence of events. I'm shocked that Dish wouldn't want to have this network available for its customers at this time. We'd encourage them to find a platform that carries AMC.