New York -- Turner Network Television's production
slate for next season -- 13 original movies and miniseries -- goes well beyond the
channel's usual Westerns and historic dramas to include four projects based on
At its upfront presentation here last week, TNT announced
that three of its literary adaptations -- the $24 million Animal Farm, A
Christmas Carol and Don Quixote --are being co-produced or
executive-produced by Robert Halmi Sr. and Hallmark Entertainment.
In fact, Halmi and an actor with roles in two of the
projects, Patrick Stewart, appeared at TNT's presentation, talking to media buyers
about the made-for-TV movies.
"Now, cable can do television events that nobody else
can," Halmi said. "At last, you people have something good to spend your money
At its upfront -- where TNT unveiled its more than $130
million 1999-2000 production slate -- president Brad Siegel also said his network has a
number of primetime series in the works.
Later on, Siegel said TNT has 10 primetime series in
development -- hour-long dramas that Turner will be meeting with individual ad agencies to
"Their quality will equal or surpass what is on the
broadcast channels," Siegel said. "It will be quality writing, quality
In describing TNT's plans, Siegel alluded to Home Box
Office's success -- and to the quality of its offerings -- in the dramatic-series
genre. HBO has won wide critical acclaim for its mob series, The Sopranos.
Also last week, Turner Broadcasting System Inc said it has
entered into an exclusive syndication-window output deal for TNT and TBS Superstation with
DreamWorks SKG, making TNT and TBS the exclusive basic-cable homes of movies from the
Turner will get DreamWorks movies such as Saving Private
Ryan after HBO's and ABC's windows. But since HBO will get two plays of the
films under its deal, Turner won't air its first DreamWorks movie until 2002.
"We look forward to the inclusion of DreamWorks motion
pictures among the lengthy list of major theatrical films that will air in basic cable on
the Turner networks in the years to come," said Hal Richardson, who represented
DreamWorks in the negotiations, in a prepared statement.
The addition of literary classics, and some contemporary
family stories and relationship-oriented movies, reflects "an expansion of our
strategy, not a change of strategy," Siegel said.
The idea is to do more programming that will bring in
female viewers, in addition to the TNT staples of Westerns and historic dramas that have
"guy appeal," according to Siegel.
At the upfront, Halmi said he has been planning to do
George Orwell's Animal Farm for 55 years, but the technology wasn't
available to do it. Jim Henson's Creature Shop provided the combination live-action
and animated effects, a la Babe, that the movie incorporates.
Pete Postlewaite will be featured as Farmer Jones, with
animal voices by Stewart, Peter Ustinov, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Kelsey Grammer
"[Animal Farm] is one of the most significant,
resonant novels of the 20th century," Stewart said.
Stewart is also reprising his role as Ebenezer Scrooge in A
Christmas Carol. Don Quixote will star John Lithgow and Isabella Rossellini.
The latter also appeared at TNT's upfront to tout the project.
TNT's four-hour David Copperfield miniseries
has a cast that includes Sally Field and Michael Richards.
TNT will also be doing a movie version of Western classic
novel The Virginian. Bill Pullman -- who will direct, produce and star in the
telepic -- appeared at TNT's upfront to talk about the project, which is slated to
air next January.
Siegel told media buyers that TNT is no longer just a cable
alternative, but a first choice among quality audiences.
TNT also unwrapped plans for several new projects that
hadn't been announced before:
Deadlocked, about a father and prosecutor who
find themselves on opposite sides of the law;
Boss of Bosses,a story of the rise
and fall of Gambino crime family chief Paul Castellano, starring Chazz Palmenteri;
Baby, about a family whose life changes when
a baby is delivered to its door, executive-produced by Glenn Close and David Manson;
Gabriel's Run,a thriller about a
man who sells his body to an organ-harvesting company to pay for the hospitalization of
his dying son;
Killer, about a businessman who is murdered
by his right-hand man, who makes it look like a suicide; and
Ticker,about an elite Los Angeles
bomb squad trying to track down a terrorist.
TNT officials also said they have five primetime specials
in the works for the coming fall season, including Tribute to Bob Marley and
Justice Denied,the latterabout innocent people who have been jailed
for crimes that they didn't commit.