The network of "Mad Men" is feeling criminal.
AMC has given pilot orders for "Low Winter Sun," a crime drama based on a dark British miniseries, as well as a new legally themed show from Hollywood veterans Richard LaGravenese and Tony Goldwyn, according to people familiar with the projects who were not authorized to talk about them publicly.
Though both shows are only pilots at this point, there's a strong likelihood they'll end up on the network: AMC has never produced a pilot that it didn't later pick up to series. The new shows could be on the air by the end of next year.
"Cold Case" veteran Chris Mundy will act as writer, executive producer and show runner for "Sun," which examines corruption and revenge among police forces. Relocated from the U.K. to Detroit, it centers on a detective who kills a fellow cop, and the fallout and drama that ensues from that murder.
Produced by a subsidiary of the Dutch television giant Endemol, the original starred Mark Strong as the murderous detective and hit the airwaves six years ago in the United Kingdom, where it scored a BAFTA TV nomination for best drama. Endemol will co-produce the American version with AMC.
The as-yet-untitled LaGravenese/Goldwyn show is an original concept that will center on a district attorney who, when new edvidence comes to light years after the fact, reopens a high-profile murder case involving white defendants and black victims. The show, which will be produced by AMC, is expected to look at the case’s moral dimensions as much as the criminal ones, with an emphasis on racial themes
Oscar-nominated LaGravenese, known for writing films such as "The Fisher King" and "Water for Elephants," will executive produce and write the show. Goldwyn, who most recently directed a legal thriller when he helmed Hilary Swank’s “Conviction” in 2010, will serve as executive producer and director.
The new shows mark the latest turn for a network that, after years of staying away from established genres, tried a cop drama last year for the first time with "The Killing." (It also recently began airing CSI: Miami in syndication.) Despite their familiar settings, the new projects are expected to hew closer to the serialized "The Killing" in tone and character than to the self-contained procedurals on network television.
Among the projects on AMC's recent development slate that did not get picked up in this round were “Sacred Games,” a period Indian crime drama based on an epic novel, and “Turn,” a story of spies during the Revolutionary War; "Sacred Games" remains in development at the network. This marks the first time in its history that AMC is ordering two scripted pilots at one time.
AMC is coming off its biggest hit to date in "The Walking Dead," whose second-season finale last month drew nine million viewers. The network continues to garner acclaim for "Mad Men," which is currently in its fifth season. But executives have been eager to get new shows into the pipeline: AMC last ordered a new pilot nearly two years ago.
Photo: Brian McCardie, left, and Mark Strong star in the British version of "Low Winter Sun." Credit: Channel 4