Cabler shifting original programming strategy
If summer success “Rizzoli and Isles” came as a pleasant but somewhat unexpected surprise to TNT, “Dallas” won’t have that luxury.
The iconic series is receiving a Turner reboot as production on the pilot begins this spring. At the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena, Michael Wright, exec veep and head of programming for TNT, TBS and TCM, told Daily Variety that expectations remain extraordinarily high but he believes writer Cynthia Cidre has offered a compelling updated scenario to capture auds not familiar with the sudser that made “Who Shot J.R.?” a national catchphrase in the early 1980s.
“I don’t want to give away the plot, but she found something authentic to business and to Dallas that allows them to trade on the same dynamic of the super wealthy,” Wright said. ” ‘Dallas’ was always something of an ‘Upstairs Down-stairs’ paradigm. If it wasn’t the rich or poor, it was attitude — entitlement vs. a populist point of view. This covers all that.”
Before “Dallas” hits the airwaves, however, TNT is launching two new dramas in June: legal dramedy “Franklin and Bash,” with Mark-Paul Gosselaar, and sci-fi skein “Falling Skies,” starring Noah Wyle as an insurgent trying to fight off an alien force. Both shows got big showcases during Turner’s portion of the TCA tour on Thursday.
Meanwhile, TNT is set to wrap the first six episodes of season two of “Men of a Certain Age,” which has drawn plenty of critical plaudits but saw relatively modest ratings. Net decided to split the season because the competition on Monday nights was fierce in December-January, with a slew of special-event programming and college football bowl games.
Following the request of lead actress Kyra Sedgwick, net will reluctantly wrap up “The Closer,” which is nearing production on its seventh and final season. Skein was a game-changer for the net and remained a ratings powerhouse in its sixth season.
Wright is grateful the show will run for seven seasons considering Sedgwick had only a six-year pact.
On the comedy side, Wright said “Conan” has not only improved the 11 p.m. timeslot for TBS (formerly occupied by “Lopez Tonight”) but, since moving back an hour to midnight, Lopez’s numbers have gone up as well, giving the net a more competitive latenight presence.
More importantly, Wright added, “Conan” acts as a unifier for TBS programming. He said it’s imperative that O’Brien be the comedic voice of the network, which airs mostly offnet and disparate sitcoms — Tyler Perry, “The Office,” “Family Guy” — during early primetime.
“He’s established a specific brand for the network,” Wright said. “By virtue of his place in the comedy world, he is one of the most resonant voices in comedy today.”
As for other pilots in development, Wright said he’s waiting to see the final cuts of Mike Robe-penned “Bird Dog,” from Warner Horizon TV, and “Perception.”
“Bird Dog” revolves around a woman from New York who works as a police officer in a small Pacific Northwest town. One day her father arrives from Gotham and becomes her partner.
Gumshoe drama “Hollywood and Vine” has yet to go before the cameras. Wright said a lead actor has yet to be cast.