Network okays 'Rizzoli,' 'Delta Blues,' 'Invasion'

There’s no shortage of drama at TNT. The cabler gave greenlights to three series on Thursday as part of its ongoing push to stock its primetime sked with original fare.

Michael Wright, exec veep and head of programming for TNT, TBS and TCM, said the three projects — “Rizzoli and Isles,” “Delta Blues” and an untitled alien invasion drama from Steven Spielberg — stood out among the many projects on the cabler’s wide-ranging development slate because of the distinctiveness of the lead characters and their settings.

The three new skeins will bring the number of original series on TNT’s sked to 10. Cabler’s most recent entry, “Men of a Certain Age,” got off to a promising start in December.

Rizzoli and Isles,” from Warner Horizon TV, stars Angie Harmon as a Boston police officer who works with a medical examiner, played by Sasha Alexander, to solve crimes. The relationship between the two, who have very different personalities and backgrounds, is the heart of the show, Wright said. Concept is based on the mystery novel series by Tess Gerritsen. Pilot was penned by Janet Tamaro (“Bones”) and helmed by Michael Robin, exec producer of TNT’s “The Closer.” Lorraine Bracco, Bruce McGill and Lee Thompson Young co-star.

Delta Blues” revolves around a Memphis cop, played by Jason Lee, who lives with his mother and moonlights as a musician. “Blues” comes from Warner Horizon and George Clooney and Grant Heslov’s Smokehouse banner. Pilot was penned by Liz Garcia and Josh Harto and was helmed by Clark Johnson. Wright said the show brings a big dollop of humor to its cop franchise elements, and the Memphis setting is unique among contempo primetime skeins.

This show has captured a fun world and it takes you to a place you want to go,” Wright said. “By the end of the pilot you want to go meet that guy, sit in a club and hear some of his music.”

The untitled alien invasion drama hails from DreamWorks TV. “ER” alum Noah Wyle stars as a leader of a ragtag group of people in the present day who fight to save humanity after an alien invasion. Robert Rodat (“Saving Private Ryan”) wrote pilot from an idea he conceived with Spielberg. Spielberg, Rodat and DreamWorks TV heads Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank are exec producers.

What grabbed us about the show is that it deals with the question of how do you maintain a sense of humanity in a time when you’re in a life or death struggle,” Wright said.

Wyle’s character, a history professor who is pressed into service as a leader after millions of people are slaughtered by the invaders, is a departure for the actor, Wright added.

Rizzoli” and “Delta Blues” are expected to bow later this year. The Wyle project is targeted for 2011 in order to give the producers time to work out all the intricacies of production and vfx and to give TNT time to prep a mega marketing campaign.

With Thursday’s trio of pickups, TNT is unlikely to order any more series this year — though Wright said he reserved the right to change his mind if something incredible pops up.

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