The cast of "Comic Book Men" (David M. Russell / AMC )
AMC, the network that helped turn Sunday into a night of appointment television with its shows "Mad Men," "Breaking Bad," and "The Walking Dead," will attempt to do the same for Thursdays. The network plans to launch a new night of original unscripted programming on Feb. 14, the Times has learned.
The 90-minute block is to kick off at 9 p.m. with the return of Kevin Smith's "Comic Book Men," followed by the premiere of two unscripted series that tap into the mania for shows about dangerous, obscure or otherwise offbeat occupations. Set for 9:30 p.m., "Freakshow" centers on former music producer Todd Ray and his Venice Beach museum of curiosities. It will be followed at 10 p.m. by "Immortalized," a taxidermy competition show in which experienced craftspeople face off against lesser-known "rogue artists."
The new additions are aimed squarely at the 10 million or so viewers who tune in to "The Walking Dead" on Sundays, making it the highest-rated drama in basic-cable history among adults 18-49.
"We think that both are really engaging and edgy and could be enjoyed by a wide audience, but we also saw an opportunity, a sweet spot if you will, with 'The Walking Dead' audience," Joel Stillerman, AMC’s executive vice president of original programming, production and digital content, said in an email.
The network’s expansion into guy-centric reality TV is to continue later in 2013 with the premiere of "Owner's Manual," an unscripted series in which Ed Sanders of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and Marcus Hunt of HGTV’s "Hammer Heads" will attempt to operate high-tech gadgetry (think fighter jets and submarines), one guided only by his wits, one going by the book.
"Every adult in this country falls into one of two categories. You either read the owner's manual before you put something together, or you don't," Stillerman said.
Thursday will also be the destination for the network’s other reality shows, "The Pitch" and "Small-Town Security," when they return for their second seasons next year.
AMC certainly isn't the first cable network primarily known for its scripted fare to diversify with reality programming -- or vice versa, as is the case with History. Nor is it the first outlet to expand its schedule beyond the logjam of Sunday nights. HBO took a risk by airing its scripted shows "Enlightened" and "Bored to Death" on Mondays last year.
As for the particular decision to focus on Thursday, Stillerman said that, given the stiff competition throughout the week, the night "makes a lot of sense from a scheduling and business point of view," and called it "an opportunity to offer viewers a true block of programs that support one another creatively."
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