Content

TNT Returns to the Movies

11/07/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

TNT says the return to its original-movie
roots with a series of mystery films designed to draw fans
of the network’s top series, such as The Closer and Rizzoli and
Isles
, while giving the network a
slate of new programming for the
typically slow winter months.

The “TNT Mystery Movie
Night” weekly movie series,
with films adapted from
popular crime novels, will
initially run on consecutive
Tuesdays and Wednesdays for
two weeks, beginning Nov. 29
with Scott Turow’s Innocent,
starring Bill Pullman (Independence
Day, Torchwood
)
and Nov. 30 with Ricochet,
starring John Corbett (Sex and
the City, Northern Exposure
).

The six-movie series will
conclude Dec. 20 with Deck the
Halls
, based on the first book in
Mary Higgins Clark and Carol
Higgins Clark’s series of holiday
mystery novels.

TNT is no stranger to the
made-for-TV movie — the
network produced numerous
original films in the early
2000s. Its 2001 Western
Crossfire Trail remains the
second-most-watched film in
basic-cable history, with 12.5
million viewers.

In recent years, TNT abandoned telefilms to focus on developing
scripted series. Its last movie was the 2009 medical
drama Gifted Hands.

But with few cable and broadcast networks developing
original movies, TBS, TNT and Turner Classic Movies executive
vice president and head of programming Michael Wright
said, the genre should resonate well with viewers.

“The genre burned itself out in the late 1990s and early
2000s because there were so many of them and so many
of the same movie,” Wright said. “But TV is cyclical, and
the popularity of genres come and go — anyone declaring
the original movie format dead hasn’t studied American
television.”

He said the current schedule of TNT original mystery films
fits squarely in the network’s wheelhouse.

“These are two-hour procedural movies — primarily
mysteries and thrillers that are meant to be compatible with
programming like The Closer and Rizzoli and Isles,” he said.
“We’ve built a nice business
around procedurals midweek
on TNT. These standalone
shows are meant to
appeal to that audience,
yet bring out a much more
fleshed-through storyline.”

The movies also provide
TNT with an opportunity
to program the early winter
months, when several of
the network’s shows are on
hiatus, although TNT will
bring back new episodes
of The Closer and Rizzoli &
Isles
in December.

“We’ve had most of our
success and most of our
presence during the summer,
and over the past couple
of years begun to seed
that December to January
stretch,” Wright said.

Wright said if successful,
the movies could return
with sequels or represent a
back-door pilot for a future
scripted series. The network
is already planning another
series of original movies to
debut next spring.

“Many of these movies could easily go on as either franchises
or series, so there’s an inherent value for them beyond their
performance solely as a two-hour movie,” Wright said.