‘Contagion’ Writer Scott Z. Burns Sets Musical Anthology Series at AMC

     March 24, 2020

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AMC has greenlit National Anthem, an eight-episode musical anthology series created by Contagion writer Scott Z. Burns, and executive produced by Mark Johnson, who won an Oscar for Rain Man and a pair of Emmys for Breaking Bad, the network announced Tuesday.

National Anthem is described as a tragically funny musical dramedy about a middle class midwestern family tumbling down the ladder of American society who periodically burst into song as they struggle to catch themselves.

Oscar winner T Bone Burnett (Crazy Heart) is attached as the series’ music producer, with words and music by Craig Finn of the rock band The Hold Steady.

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National Anthem is the first series greenlit under Johnson’s multi-year overall deal with AMC Studios, through which he will continue to develop new series for the company, as well as potential third-party buyers. Johnson’s overall deal expands his existing relationship with AMC Networks and AMC Studios, as he currently serves as an executive producer on AMC’s critically-acclaimed drama Better Call Saul. He previously executive produced its Emmy-winning drama Breaking Bad, as well as Halt and Catch Fire, not to mention SundanceTV’s Rectify.

National Anthem is a family drama with deep resonant things to say about the fragility of our country, our world and our planet. Plus… it’s a musical! In Scott’s genius hands, this results in a hugely original, intense, funny and moving piece of writing,” said Sarah Barnett, president of AMC Networks’ Entertainment Group and AMC Studios. “We’re so happy to work with Scott as he brings this unique story to life and absolutely delighted to continue our creative partnership with Mark, who we have been so lucky to work with on some of the most critically acclaimed series over the last decade.”

“Craig, T Bone and I are thrilled to be working with Mark and AMC. We are so grateful for the chance to write about this moment in time and surround our characters with songs,” said Burns. “Sarah and Susie and everyone at AMC should be celebrated for their vision in saying ‘yes’ to this.”

“I still can’t believe that AMC and I have been able to assemble this dream team of storytellers,” said Johnson. “We are poised to create something both singular and entertaining, told with moments, dialogue and song.”

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Image via Warner Bros.

Burns has been in the news of recent weeks thanks to his prophetic 2011 drama Contagion, which has become one of America’s most popular films in recent weeks as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. He has written several other Steven Soderbergh films, such as The Informant!, Side Effects and The Laundromat. Burns also wrote The Bourne Ultimatum for Paul Greengrass, and he recently directed the Adam Driver drama The Report for Amazon.

Johnson recently produced Vince Gilligan‘s Breaking Bad movie El Camino starring Aaron Paul, and his upcoming movies include the serial killer thriller The Little Things starring Oscar winners Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto.

Burnett has endless experience as a musician, and his TV credits include HBO’s True Detective and the first season of ABC’s Nashville. Meanwhile, Finn launched The Hold Steady in 2003 and released his first book — a collection of his lyrics titled I Can’t Keep Saying Thank You — last year.

To listen to the Collider.com podcast about Contagion in relation to the current coronavirus pandemic, click here.

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