By STEVEN ZEITCHIK
AMC is on the cusp of greenlighting the original series "Breaking Bad," Vince Gilligan's show about a middle-aged high school teacher who becomes a crystal-meth dealer.Pilot of the Sony Pictures Television series wrapped earlier in the year, with AMC weighing a series order for the past several months. While a deal is close, some final details still need to be worked out.
Show, shot and set in New Mexico, focuses on a suburban husband and father who learns he has terminal cancer. He decides to overhaul his life and, drawing upon his experience as a chemistry teacher, remakes himself into a meth dealer.
Bryan Cranston ("Malcolm in the Middle") plays the lead role
, with Anna Gunn ("Deadwood") as his wife.
"X-Files" vet Gilligan wrote, directed and exec produced the pilot; veteran Hollywood producer Mark Johnson ("The Chronicles of Narnia," "Donnie Brasco") is also attached as an exec producer.
AMC spokesman Matthew Frankel declined to comment on a greenlight.
While the show doesn't glorify meth dealing, it does paint a sympathetic portrait of the man who decides to take up an unlikely new vocation as a drug dealer, said those familiar with the project.
In addition to serving as writer and exec producer on "The X-Files," Gilligan is currently a co-creator of the Fox 21 pilot "A.M.P.E.D.," which has been set up at Spike TV.
"Bad" series would rep yet another step in AMC's new direction: The Rainbow movie net has been making a push into original scripted programming.
AMC is set to bow period Madison Avenue show "Mad Men" this summer and is in the fourth season of "Hustle," its co-production with the BBC.
Execs also recently announced a development slate that includes deals with Kip Koenig ("Grey's Anatomy") and Michael Oates Palmer ("The West Wing"), with the goal of scheduling one night of original programming per week.
Despite the shift in direction, execs told Daily Variety
at the time of the slate announcement that they want net's shows to follow a more cinematic model in terms of both pacing and character development.
"We're approaching these more like movies being shown on TV rather than like TV shows," said Christina Wayne, veep of scripted programming.