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AMC Networks Lean on History in Pitch for the Future

Once and future basic cable golden duo Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira toplined AMC Networks‘ meeting with the Television Critics Association on Tuesday, as The Walking Dead actors capped off a presentation of new and returning series that, in many respects, would have made as much sense in 2014 as it does in 2024. 

Lincoln and Gurira were on hand to hype the zombie franchise’s sixth spinoff, The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live. But the growing tally of Walking Dead off-shoots isn’t the only indication of how valuable past properties and players remain to the AMC brands. The media company, a consortium of cable networks (AMC, WE TV, Sundance, IFC) and specialty streamers (AMC+, Acorn TV, Allblk, Shudder) banked big on familiar faces and titles over the course of the afternoon — trotting out a new vehicle for Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul star Giancarlo Esposito (Parish), announcing a revival of sorts for WE TV reality show Braxton Family Values and leaning into proven IP with projects based on the works of Anne Rice (Interview With the Vampire) and Dashiell Hammett (Monsieur Spade, a sequel of sorts to The Maltese Falcon).

“Some in our industry are trying to offer something for everyone,” said AMC Studios president of entertainment Dan McDermott at the top of the afternoon. “Across our brands, we’re trying to do one thing and do it very well.” 

Being home of the flagship network that helped mainstream the notion of prestige TV with Mad Men, Breaking Bad and the commercial juggernaut that was the original The Walking Dead, it’s fitting that AMC’s past is a big part of the equation. AMC Networks can’t compete with the scale of the major streamers, but it can rival many on name recognition of its various titles — which also include Orphan Black and Killing Eve. Most of them, though all have various licensing deals, are all on AMC+. That’s one arena where McDermott emphasized the older series were now just as important as new ones, noting that premieres, as we think of them, are done. “A premiere is whenever a viewer first decides to watch,” he said.

Regardless of evolving definitions, McDermott and other AMC Networks brass are banking a lot of viewers decide to watch The Ones Who Live when the six-part series literally premieres on AMC and AMC+ come Feb. 25. The limited series, which reunites Walking Dead alums Lincoln and Gurira — both of whom departed the parent show before its 2022 conclusion — was originally envisioned as a series of films before pivoting back to TV. 

Plot points were expectedly off the table, but creator Scott Gimple, who oversees the entire franchise, spoke about his approach to curating the various series now that the original is dead and gone. “We run these little experiments,” he said of the spin-offs. “It’s a very different world now, and we’re lucky to have a very loyal audience, and we’re trying to give them a variety.”

Such variety, it turns out, could one day include a Marvel-esque meet-up between the various spin-offs and characters. “I do have dreams of merging this altogether, and I have laid little breadcrumbs… but you never know when and how,” said Gimple. “I am building those pathways, but there could be all sorts of pivots along the way that change that.” 

A member of the crowd asked if The Ones Who Live is indeed limited — or if there was possibly room for more series featuring Lincoln and Gurira down the line. “Well, I die in the last episode,” said Lincoln, whose fellow panelists quickly jumped in to say he was either joking or doing some solid psyop.    

“Anything is possible,” Gimple further clarified, “Even if Rick [Lincoln’s character] dies in the last episode.” 

Of course, AMC Networks wasn’t just there to tap that prestige scripted vein. One of the biggest announcements of the afternoon was the confirmation that the long-speculated return of Braxton Family Values is coming to WE TV. Dubbed The Braxtons, it reunites musical siblings Toni, Towanda, Trina and Tamar, as well as mother Evelyn, with reality cameras three years after the original series concluded — and two years after the loss of Traci Braxton, who died of esophageal cancer in 2022.

Tamar Braxton very publicly “cut ties” with WE TV before the original series officially concluded. She openly sparred with the network over compensation and, in 2020, declared on social media that she was “betrayed, overworked and underpaid.”

“Obviously, a lot has happened since the landmark hit that was Braxton Family Values,” said McDermott, acknowledging the company’s long break from working with the women. “We are thrilled to jump back into their dynamic and exciting lives with this new series.”

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