AMC hasn’t had the best luck developing new shows outside of the Breaking Bad/Walking Dead wheelhouse lately, and the cable network has tied a fair bit of its future to the idea that those concepts can support a kind of affection from viewers that is so enduring that it will outlast the initial series and support two spin-offs – but obviously, AMC knows that it needs more to hang in against the basic cable competition.
That’s why it is so heartening to hear that the network has added two new pilots - Knifeman and (the unfortunately titled) Galyntine - to go along with their existing order for the David Morrissey starring sci-fi/drama Line of Sight - as well as soon-to-debut shows Turn & Halt and Catch Fire. The question is: Do these shows have what it takes to catch AMC’s eye once they are fully fleshed out?
We won’t know that for quite some time, of course, but as we gaze upon their synopses, both shows seem interesting on paper, with a bit of ambition and a few familiar notes.
Here’s the synopsis for Knifeman:
Set in 18th century London, Knifeman will focus on the untold story of a charming, arrogant, decorum-breaking genius who challenges societal norms to transform his visions into cutting-edge discoveries. A surgeon or “barber” in a time when blood-letting and praying was the norm, John Tattersal is a hard drinking, hard living man not afraid to push the boundaries of modern medicine, even if it takes digging up a few graves to do it.
While he makes his living running an unlicensed operating theatre out of his residence, he picks up extra cash harvesting organs for his brother Julian, favorite son and prized physician of the St. Stephen’s teaching hospital. Knifeman is a fast paced, entertaining romp filled with emotion, tackling dark themes with a biting wit. The pilot was written by Rolin Jones (United States of Tara) and developed by Jones and Ron Fitzgerald (Last Resort), both of whom will serve as executive producers. Media Rights Capital (House of Cards), Josh Donnen and Robert Zotnowski are also executive producers. Knifeman is inspired by the biography of John Hunter by Wendy Moore, “The Knife Man: Blood, Body Snatching and the Birth of Modern Surgery”
That sounds like its DNA is spliced with a little Burke and Hare, some era-appropriate Sherlock and a lot of Sweeney Todd, but for something that seems so focused on a singular character, casting will be key for Knifeman. So the question is: Will AMC break the bank on a name actor to get the right fit, adding to the cost and risk associated with a show that will already be a tough sell thanks to its likely expensive 18th century motif?
Luckily for AMC, Galyntine seems more like an ensemble. Here’s the synopsis:
Galyntine is a wholly-original vision rooted in a both fantasy/action adventure and science-fiction. Our pilot takes place at a time after a cataclysmic technology-induced disaster has resulted in a new society that has eschewed any form of technology. This catastrophic event leaves small numbers of survivors scattered around the planet and forced to adapt to isolation and unique challenges. Galyntine will explore a post-apocalyptic world in which humanity has evolved – with some strange detours. Galyntine is a man’s journey of discovery through a changed world and its mysterious people.
The project is written by Jason Cahill (Halt and Catch Fire, Fringe, Surface,Profiler) and executive produced by Cahill and Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead, This Is The End, Oz The Great And Powerful, Transformers). David Zucker and Ridley Scott will also executive produce through Scott Free’s (The Good Wife, Numb3rs) first-look deal with AMC.
The Walking Dead comparison is inevitable, as are the Revolution cat calls, but this specific show about a small group of survivors in a strange and hostile landscape seems to push well past the intimate moments following the loss of normality, allowing this to seem like it might hold some real potential.
Pilot synopses are built to break hearts, though, and these shows could be derailed by one of a million things. A flubbed execution, bad casting, shifting tastes at the network. To be honest, this could be the last thing you ever read about these shows – or we could be having the first conversation about something that will straddle the zeitgeist for the next half decade like The Walking Dead has. You never know – but at least AMC is taking a few swings.
Keep an eye on Screen Rant for further news on both Knifeman and Galyntine.