Turner execs take on Big Four at upfronts

Conan O’Brien hit the Turner stage this morning, as TBS announced a launch date for his new latenight yakker.

The new O’Brien show is set to launch on November 8, the cabler said.

O’Brien opened the Turner upfront at Hammerstein Ballroom, quipping that the visit repped “my first time back in New York since I was here exactly one year ago for the NBC upfront.

“That night I flew in to promote my 25-year run as host of ‘The Tonight Show.”

O’Brien then asked someone — anyone — in the audience to “explain what the hell happened four months ago. The plot to ‘Lost’ is more plausible than the last year of my life.”

O’Brien also thanked Turner’s Steve Koonin — whom, the host gagged, he first met on JDate — for providing him a new network home.

“Steve’s excitement for me and what I do has been nothing short of exhilarating,” O’Brien said. “I really believe in basic cable. Basic cable is what makes this country great. I do not want to live in a country with less than six ESPNs.”

O’Brien’s talk show leadout, George Lopez, chimed in later, nothing that “50 years ago, a redhead and a Latino made TV history. We’re a same-sex Desi and Lucy.”

As Koonin took the stage, he couldn’t resist giving thanks to Jay Leno for being the instigator to Turner’s acquisition of both O’Brien and “Southland.”

Turner execs also once again hammered their message to advertisers that they’ve earned parity with the broadcast nets.

“The reason we hold our upfront this week is we have about the same reach as the broadcast networks,” Koonin said. “If you think of this as ‘reach week,’ then we have more than earned our admission ticket.”

Koonin also quoted CBS’ Leslie Moonves, who recently said on a conference call that the “line between cable and broadcast is blurring.”

Said Koonin: “Les is right. The playing field is leveled.”

During the TBS portion, entertainment topper Michael Wright touted returning skein “My Boys,” as well as newcomer “Glory Daze,” new animated series “Neighbors from Hell” and Ice-T’s new TV version of “Are We There Yet.”

On the TNT side, cabler touted summer returnees “Leverage” (moving to Sundays), “The Closer,” newcomer “Rizzoli and Isles,” “Hawthorne,” “Saving Grace,” “Dark Blue” and new “Memphis Beat.”

In the fall, TNT will bring back “Men of a Certain Age.” And in 2011, cabler launches Steven Spielberg’s “Fallen Skies,” and brings back “Southland” for another season. Lawyer drama “Franklin and Bash” also joins the sked next year.

As for new TNT development, the cabler announced several new projects in the works:

  • An untitled medical show starring Don Cheadle.

  • “Graysmith,” based on the life of cartoonist, writer and part-time private detective Robert Graysmith (“Zodiac”).

  • “Green Detective,” from Steven Bochco.

  • “Brain Trust,” about a detective who pairs with academics to solve crimes.

  • “Miss Philly,” from Jamie Foxx, about the suburbs and urban war zones of Philadelphia.

  • “Dear God,” about the dead letters bureau at the U.S. Postal Service, from Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.

TBS’ development slate includes relationship comedy “The Wedding Band,” the detective buddy series “The Rabbit Factory,” and the dating entry “The Catch.” Animated development include “Good and Evel” and “The Black Family.”

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