TNT orders big-name cop series
George Clooney, '24's' Joel Surnow among producersNEW YORK -- TNT announced plans to extend its winning streak in scripted dramas with projects in development from big-time executive producers George Clooney, "24" co-creator Joel Surnow and others.
Four of the series in development are cop-themed. "Delta Blues" is about a Memphis cop who is also an Elvis impersonator. It's executive produced by Clooney, Grant Heslov, Abby Wolf-Weiss, Liz Garcia and Josh Harto (Warner Horizon Television and SmokeHouse). Another project is yet to be titled and focuses on a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent. Surnow is the executive producer with Todd Robinson and also the writer. And "Angel City" is an "Adam-12"-like drama written by L.A. cop Will Beall and Barry Schindel with Mandalay Television.
None of the projects was mentioned at Turner's upfront, held at the Hammerstein Ballroom on Wednesday morning, the first time Turner had gone into upfront week. It's not likely to be the last, judging from the positive reaction from buyers and the good vibes afterward from Turner execs who put on an 81-minute program that had everything -- stars, lots of footage -- that their broadcast rivals so far have lacked.
Also in development are "Tough Trade," a look at Nashville music from Lionsgate Television and executive produced by Chris Offutt, Sean Furst and Bryan Furst; and an untitled family drama like "Little Miss Sunshine" executive produced by Rob Ulin.
Turner told advertisers that it was ready to dramatically increase its original content on TNT. The goal is to eventually have 80 percent original content weeknights, with original programming three nights a week by 2010.
Settling into its spot at the upfront week table, Turner joined ABC in taking shots at fourth-place broadcast network NBC by way of saying that Turner deserved to be ranked among broadcast networks for its ratings, reach and quality programming.
Entertainment chief Steve Koonin put up pictures of an "American Gladiator" and "Knight Rider" car Kitt, then compared them to the award-winning stars of "The Closer" and "Saving Grace," both from TNT.
"You tell me which show is broadcast and which is cable," Koonin said. He said that in the past five years, cable has made strides in attracting top talent and is offering shows whose quality rivals any broadcast network.
"Whether it's scripted or unscripted, it's being crafted by the help of amazing talent," original programming chief Michael Wright said.
TBS, which has seen double-digit ratings growth in its key younger demos, is also getting new programming.
TBS is developing several projects, including a single-camera comedy written and executive produced by William H. Macy and Steven Schachter, which will star Macy. It's from Sony Pictures Television. Another comedy pilot will star Joey "Run" Simmons of Run-DMC, executive produced by Russell Simmons, Stan Lathan and Winifred Hervey.
And it will break into late-night television with "National Banana Already in Progress," a sketch show from Jerry Zucker, and development plans for several others: A comedy/reality series from Jonathan Murray and Gil Goldschein that brings middle-aged men back to their fraternity; a sketch-show executive produced by Jamie Foxx and Marcus King; and "Top Ten," a competition among comedians.
TBS will renew "10 Items or Less," one of its sitcoms, as well as give a 26-episode order to "Tyler Perry's House of Payne." TBS said it had a four-year deal with Ellen DeGeneres to host the Vegas Comedy Festival and a new Just For Laughs: A Very Funny Comedy Festival in Chicago.
Also on tap for TNT is its first unscripted drama, "Wedding Day." The Mark Burnett Prods./DreamWorks Television series will make the wedding dreams of couples true.
Appearing on stage including Kyra Sedgwick, Holly Hunter, Jane Kaczmarek, Timothy Hutton, Tom Cavanaugh, Eric McCormack, and a number of others.