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‘Dark’ lights TNT’s fuse

Cablers stick to scripted programming

With Wednesday’s launch of cop drama “Dark Blue” TNT completed its first week of serving up original programming on three nights.

The Dylan McDermott starrer drew 3.5 million viewers, and 1.2 million in the 18-49 demo. The series held 90% of its lead-in from “Leverage,” which pulled 3.8 million viewers for its season-two premiere. Heist drama improved 24% on its premiere a year ago.

TNT and USA Network in particular have made strides this summer with original drama skeins at a time when broadcast skeds are full of reruns and a handful of reality skeins.

“Our whole strategy has been to be a broadcast alternative,” TNT exec VP of programming Michael Wright told Daily Variety. As far as expanding beyond the Monday-Wednesday original programming block, he added, “We’ll know more as we progress but three nights feels like a great place to be. If you grow past that, it could be diminishing returns.”

TNT offers two-hour blocks of “The Closer” and “Raising the Bar” on Mondays, and female-centric “Hawthorne” and “Saving Grace” on Tuesdays. “Hawthorne,” starring Jada Pinkett Smith, began its run on June 16 with a healthy 3.8 million viewers and 1.5 million in the 18-49 demo.

When the originals finish their runs at the end of summer, expect TNT to increase the number of reruns from September through November. Wright said it’s a way to keep the programs on viewers’ radar.

“Dark Blue,” from Warner Horizon, is exec produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, Jonathan Littman, Danny Cannon, Doug Jung and Rick Eid.

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