Continuing its evolution from a country-music service into a pop culture-based entertainment channel, TNN: The National Network's 2002-03 programming schedule will include a night of original animated series and uncut James Bond movies.
In an effort to better attract adults aged 18 to 49 — its primary target — the network will introduce as many as four new adult-targeted cartoons in 2003, possibly scheduled within a Tuesday or Sunday primetime block.
That block would be bolstered by Gary the Rat, a series from actor Kelsey Grammer (Frasier). Its 30-minute episodes depict an unscrupulous New York City attorney whose immoral deeds lead to his transformation into a rat, TNN general manager Diane Robina announced at a pre-upfront press breakfast last week.
Other animated series include Joe Duffy, a show about a grouchy limo driver from veteran writer/producer Ed Weinberger (The Cosby Show); Stripperella, which depicts a female stripper who also fights crime, featuring actress Pamela Anderson; and The Immigrants, which focuses on two immigrants' quest for the American dream in Hollywood.
In addition, the network will air 64 episodes of the off-Nickelodeon cartoon Ren and Stimpy, beginning in first-quarter 2003, she said.
TNN president Herb Scannell said the animated shows should resonate well with TNN's target audience, many of whom grew up watching such groundbreaking adult animated comedies as Fox's The Simpsons.
Added Robina, "We see it as an opportunity to feature edgy programming in primetime."
The network wants to continue the primetime growth it's enjoyed since it converted from The Nashville Network.
TNN's 1.0 primetime household rating was down 9 percent for first-quarter 2002, compared with the same period last year, but the network's adult 18-to-49 delivery was up 21 percent, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Scannell expects the network to improve upon that in upcoming years. He likened the network's growth curve — and its approach to reaching younger audiences — to that of the Fox broadcast network in the 1980s.
Though Robina would not reveal the network's actual original programming budget, she said parent Viacom Inc. has pumped nearly $1 billion into original and acquired fare since its conversion in September 2000.
Along with its animated shows, TNN will also launch several other new original series, including Oblivious, a game show in which contestants can win cash prizes without realizing they're playing; and Slamball, a basketball/X Games hybrid sports competition in which players bounce off of trampolines to score baskets.
TNN will also feature 15 unedited James Bond films as part of a two-year licensing deal that also involves its broadcast siblings — CBS and UPN — and MGM Worldwide Television Distribution. Most of the early James Bond theatricals were PG-rated, so they wouldn't require much editing.
"It's a unique way to present the James Bond films," Robina said.
The Bond films follow TNN's December airing of an unedited The Godfather, a move Robina said the network will continue with other "modern American classic" films, possibly including such movies as Platoon
and Top Gun.
TNN also announced that starting this fall, it will air the recently acquired off-broadcast network series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
on Monday nights, along with Raw, its popular series from World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc.
The network also renewed five of its current original series: TNN's Robot Wars, TNN's Conspiracy Zone, TNN's Ultimate Revenge, TNN's Small Shots and TNN's Fame for 15.