Sister networks Turner Network Television and TBS are turning to marquee talent for their broad 2006 development slates, with projects from horror-meister Stephen King, Million Dollar Baby producer Paul Haggis, Courteney Cox Arquette, Whoopi Goldberg, Pauly Shore and Cedric the Entertainer.
With TNT the top-rated network and TBS on a roll, Turner believes it has built the foundation to make a major foray into original drama and comedy series, according to Steve Koonin, both networks’ executive vice president and chief operating officer.
'A BIG STEP UP’
“This is a big step up for Turner,” Koonin said. “Now we have the foundation to support the original programming. We’re now ready to bring original programming to the forefront and give it the best shot for success.”
TNT — in addition to unveiling a development slate with six traditional new series last week — has also started work on a limited series based on King’s short-story anthology Nightmares & Dreamscapes.
The drama network also released premiere dates for the police drama series The Closer, starring Kyra Sedgwick (June 13); and Wanted, a crime drama starting Gary Cole (July 31).
Those original series, as well as the ones in development, reflect TNT’s search for good dramas.
“We don’t believe creative executives make great television: We believe talent does — writers, producers,” Koonin said. “So the lineup of talent is every bit as important — who we’re doing business with — as what the projects are.”
Confessions is Haggis’ drama about a hit man trying to go straight. Grace, about a bitter female cop who gets miraculous chance to change her life, comes from executive producer Nancy Miller of CSI: Miami. The Midnight Club is a thriller from bestselling author James Patterson about a New York cop tracking down the head of an international crime organization.
Sanctuary is set in a mental hospital. Smoke & Mirrors, chronicling the world of advertising, hails from writer/producer Lindsay Sturman of Joan of Arcadia and Greer Shephard and Michael Robin, both of Nip/Tuck.
The sixth show in development is Talk to Me, a recurring series about hostage negotiators.
TNT also finished shooting a pilot for a new series from Emmy-winning producer Stephen Cannell called The Dark, about an FBI team that investigates the toughest serial-killer cases.
Koonin will wait to see how The Closer and Wanted perform, but he said three to five of the projects on the slate will probably go to the pilot stage this fall.
TNT believes the new crime dramas and cop shows fit well with its off-network series, which include Law & Order, Without a Trace, NYPD Blue and Alias (coming in September).
THREE TBS SERIES
TBS, the comedy-oriented network, has green-lit three series, ordered a pilot and inked a first-look development deal.
Series OK’d by TBS are: Loser Leaves Town, a show from Bruce Nash that pits feuding neighbors against each other in a series of challenges; Daisy Does America, a comic series from Cox Arquette and David Arquette’s Coquette Productions, starring British comedian Daisy Donovan; and the previously announced Minding the Store, which gives Pauly Shore a chance to get his mother’s comedy club, Los Angeles icon The Comedy Store, back on track.
“If you’re a comedy network, [Comedy Store] is kind of Mecca,” Koonin said.
TBS ordered a pilot from Goldberg’s One Ho Productions for Sketch Off, a show that will go across the nation to find the best sketch-comedy troupe, and signed a first-look development deal with Cedric’s production company, reserving first rights to any reality show developed over the next year.
“Obviously, we want great talent for TBS,” Koonin said. “But TBS’ s strategy for original programming falls into two components.
“We like comedic competitions and comedic storytelling. Both of those came out of our extensive consumer research to brand TBS 'very funny.’ ”