TNT picks up three series
Steven Spielberg-produced alien invasion drama among them
TNT is aggressively stoking its original-series pipeline.
The cable network Thursday picked up to series all three of its pilots: the Steven Spielberg-produced alien-invasion drama starring Noah Wyle; the George Clooney-produced "Delta Blues," starring Jason Lee; and "Rizzoli & Isles," starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander.
The trio has received orders for 10 episodes, including the pilot. "Blues" and "Rizzoli" are targeted for launch this year; the untitled alien-invasion series, which requires a longer postproduction process because of special effects, will premiere in 2011.
The moves come on the heels of TNT renewing the freshman dramas "Men of a Certain Age," "Dark Blue" and "Hawthorne" and picking up the NBC cop drama "Southland."
TNT head of programming Michael Wright said he didn't expect to pick up all three pilots in the current cycle to series, but "if it works and is going to improve the performance of the network, we thought let's find a way to do it."
The alien-invasion project, written by Robert Rodat from an idea he conceived with Spielberg, stars Wyle as the leader of a rag-tag group of soldiers and civilians struggling against an occupying alien force. Moon Bloodgood, Jessy Schram, Seychelle Gabriel and Maxim Knight co-star.
DreamWorks TV is producing the project, with Spielberg, Rodat, Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank executive producing. Carl Franklin directed the pilot.
It marks TNT's first foray into si-fi/adventure series.
"We want to challenge ourselves and our audience to expand our horizons while concentrating on what's working for us -- character-based, populist-themed dramas," Wright said.
The hourlong "Blues," from Clooney and Grant Heslov's Smokehouse Pictures and Warner Horizon, centers on Dwight Hendricks (Lee), a Memphis police officer who lives with his mother (Celia Weston) and moonlights as a musician.
The pilot, written by Liz Garcia and Joshua Harto and directed by Clark Johnson, co-starred Alfre Woodard, Abraham Benrubi and DJ Qualls. Clooney, Heslov, Garcia and Johnson are executive producers, with Henry Bronchtein and Abby Wolf-Weiss co-executive producing and Harto producing.
Based on Tess Gerritsen's mystery novels, "Rizzoli," from Warner Horizon, revolves around the crime-solving team of Boston police detective Jane Rizzoli (Harmon) and medical examiner Maura Isles (Alexander).
The cast of the crime procedural, written by Janet Tamaro, includes Lorraine Bracco and Bruce McGill. Tamaro is executive producing the series with Bill Haber. Michael M. Robin helmed the pilot.
While "Blues" and "Rizzoli" are compatible with TNT's core lineup of original and off-network crime procedurals that run weeknights, the alien-invasion series might end up airing during the weekend, paired with the network's telecasts of features in the same action-adventure genre.
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