Upfronts 2012: TBS Unveils Development Slate With Conan O'Brien Comedies, Norm Macdonald Talk Show

Upfronts | New York, May 15-20
Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com for TNT/TBS

Conan O'Brien (left) and Turner Entertainment Networks president Steve Koonin both performed impromptu stand-up at TNT/TBS' tech-plagued presentation May 18.

Ahead of its upfront presentation, the Turner-owned cable network announced a competition game show project and a comedy set in the world of professional golf.

From the network that brings you Conan and Cougar Town comes five new development projects, ranging from an intergalactic sitcom to a Norm Macdonald talk show.

TBS announced its collection of hopeful projects ahead of Wednesday’s upfront presentation to Madison Avenue buyers. The Turner-owned network, along with cable sibling TNT, has been crashing what historically has been known as broadcast upfront week for half a decade, a strong message to advertisers that their fare is just as worthy of their ad buys.

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Nearly half of the development projects on TBS’ slate come from the production company formed by Conan O’Brien, who recently re-upped his overall deal with corporate cousin Warner Bros. TV. (O’Brien’s own TBS late-night show was renewed for two more years in February.) His projects, a golf comedy and an alien comedy, are joined by a potential talk show from Saturday Night Live vet Macdonald, who attempted an ultimately short-lived sports comedy talk effort on Comedy Central at this time last year. (Where a Macdonald show would be scheduled -- if it gets that far -- is uncertain, though one option clearly is the post-Conan slot left vacant by George Lopez's departure.)

Also in development at TBS: an untitled competition game show. While the network is keeping mum on details for competitive reasons, the move is part of a larger push into the potentially lucrative unscripted space. Already, such series as King of the Nerds and Who Gets the Last Laugh are set to hit TBS’ schedule in 2013.

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In addition to touting its expanding development space, TBS brass will not only use the upfront platform to peddle new and returning series, from Men at Work to The Big Bang Theory repeats, but also wax on about the network brand. TBS president Michael Wright broke down the two types of viewers that the network is courting, a point he is likely to make again from the Hammerstein Ballroom stage. There are the “comedy relatables, who like comedy that reminds them of their own lives,” he explains, and the “comedy rebels, who enjoy more irreverent, provocative comedy.”

Here’s a look at what’s in TBS’ development coffers:

The Kid

In an attempt to get his game back, a young and socially naive golf prodigy named Quinn teams up with an unconventional new caddy. But much to the dismay of his father, Quinn learns more than just golf, as this new duo makes its way into the high-rolling, fast-moving big-time world of professional golf. The Kid is written by Donald Todd from a story by Sports Illustrated senior writer Michael Bamberger and writer Jay Hass, along with David Morse (Treme) and pro golfer Phil Mickelson's longtime caddy, Jim "Bones" Mackay. Donald Todd, Greer Shephard and Michael M. Robin are on board as executive producers on the Warner Horizon effort.

Most Likely

The former “most likely to succeed” star student returns to his hometown after being laid off, only to take a job working for the former -- and current -- “most popular” jock. The mismatched-buddy comedy, from Warner Horizon TV, was penned by Josh Heald (Hot Tub Time Machine) and counts O’Brien, Jeff Ross and David Kissinger as executive producers.

Zone Lord

A sitcom revolving around three roommates who awake one morning to discover an evil but very hip alien has moved into their building, along with his diminutive navigator. O’Brien, Ross and Kissinger will executive produce, with Ross Venokur involved as a co-EP and writer.  

Norm Macdonald is Trending

The network has ordered a pilot presentation for a talk show centered on Macdonald. SNL’s former “Weekend Update” anchor and his team of correspondents will sort through the churning mass of pop culture and social media. MacDonald also will serve as EP  with Marc Gurvitz and Lori Jo Hoekstra.

Untitled Competition Game Show

The potential reality entry is being billed as “big, unique and physically challenging,” but beyond that the competition series is being kept under wraps. What is known is that it’s being developed by Jared Hoffman and produced by Alloy Digital's Generate Studios. 

Email: Lacey.Rose@THR.com; Twitter: @LaceyVRose