Martial arts drama from 'Smallville' team coming to AMC

Could AMC successfully resurrect the martial arts TV drama?

On Friday, AMC announced a straight-to-series order for Badlands, a new series based “very loosely” on the Chinese tale “Journey to the West.” The project is from writer-producers Al Gough and Miles Millar, who in addition to The CW’s Smallville also did the kung fu comedy film Shanghai Noon. Also on board are producers Stacy Sher and Michael Shamberg (Pulp Fiction) and martial arts filmmakers Daniel Wu (Tai Chi Zero) and Stephen Fung. The show’s pitch: “In a land controlled by feudal barons, Badlands tells the story of a great warrior and a young boy who embark on a journey across a dangerous land to find enlightenment.”

For TV fans of a certain age, the project will naturally bring to mind the 1970s classic series Kung Fu, which starred starring David Carradine as a Shaolin monk who traveled the American West. But that would be Kung Fu and Walker, Texas Ranger … not much else that’s been broadly popular lately — unless you delve into kids’ programming, which is full of martial arts-themed shows such as Power Rangers and Avatar: The Last Airbender. So like how AMC brought zombies to prime-time with The Walking Dead, the network could be onto something here since martial arts is common in kids’ programming and in movies, just not the focus of grown-up TV shows. AMC has ordered six episodes for a premiere in late 2015 or early 2016.

“This creative team has so much expertise in bringing a fresh take to classic genres from their film and television experience, and their take on martial arts will be no exception,” said Joel Stillerman, AMC’s executive vice president of original programming. “Along with a beautiful story, they’ve also assembled the A-Team of martial arts fight choreography in Daniel Wu and Stephen Fung.”

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