Turner Network Television is doubling its slate of
made-for-TV movies and original series next season, with 17 TNT Originals and two new
shows in the works for 1998 through 1999.
TNT, which gingerly began a foray into original series this
year with Babylon 5, has two dramatic series planned next season, with Academy
Award-winning director Oliver Stone as the creative force behind one of them, according to
Julie Weitz, TNT's executive vice president of original programming.
Unlike USA Network, in the past, TNT's programming
strategy hasn't involved original weekly series. But Weitz said TNT's ratings
success with Babylon5 has prompted the network to look to original series
as a new business than can help to brand the network.
Stone will be executive producer for action-adventure
series Witchblade, which is based on a comic book. It will premiere with a two-hour
movie in early 1999. Witchblade is about a New York detective who comes across an
ancient, living weapon -- an armband called "Witchblade" -- which has lain
dormant, but which wakens when it comes in contact with the mortally wounded detective.
"He's [Stone] very passionate about it,"
Weitz said. "He's very enthusiastic."
The second original series for next season is Crusade,
a science-fiction show about a spaceship of humans looking for the cure to a plague
unleashed on Earth by aliens. The series, which launches with a two-hour movie, is from J.
Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5.
TNT's slate of original movies for the new fall season
aims to be "a little more eclectic" than in the past -- in terms of genre, for
example -- according to Weitz.
"We've taken what has worked for us as a
foundation and added to it, making the mix a little juicier and a little different,"
For example, a expansive Civil War film called The
Hunley -- about the Confederates' attempt to use a new secret weapon, the
submersible sub, to end the Union blockade in the South -- is on the schedule.
But in contrast to that is Legalese, starring James
Garner and Kathleen Turner, about how a high-profile murder case throws two lawyers into
the media spotlight.
TNT has also slated for next season a two-hour
supernatural-Western thriller called Purgatory West of the Pecos, starring Sam
Shepard and Eric Roberts.
Executive producers Earvin "Magic" Johnson and
Quincy Jones will co-produce the two-hour film Passing Glory, the true story of a
young black priest who used the basketball court to challenge the social conventions of a
Weitz pointed out that the first of a package of three
films that Burt Reynolds will star in and direct, Hard Time, will go into
production in May.