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TNT turns to Burnett for first reality show

Cabler takes 'Wedding' for walk down the aisle

TNT’s slogan “We Know Drama” extends beyond the network’s scripted world.

The cable net’s first venture into reality programming, “Wedding Day,” offers a twist on the old “Queen for a Day” concept by providing a dream wedding to selfless couples. So when TNT went searching for a producer who knows how to touch the heart, Mark Burnett proved the right fit.

“I describe Mark as a storyteller instead of an exploiter, which is what much of reality programming is about now,” says Michael Wright, executive VP and head of programming for TNT, TBS and TCM. “I’m not judging other shows, just saying that within our drama brand, we wanted a show that was built around strong characters. Who doesn’t remember Richard from the first season of ‘Survivor’?”

TNT’s emphasis in the past few years has been putting together a strong slate of scripted dramas, including “Saving Grace,” “The Closer,” “Leverage” and “Raising the Bar.” While those kinds of shows are the core of TNT, Wright says, the network felt the need to branch out.

“Our efforts are more about expanding the audience,” he says. “We identify them as drama lovers. Looking at that audience and seeing how to serve them was our objective when we decided to expand into reality. Mark understands that.

“We all feel that it wouldn’t work on TNT to do more of the car-crash theater. That kind of reality programming can be incredibly compelling, but it’s out of place on this network. We wanted to do more inspirational and feel-good programming, and there are not a lot of producers out there who can do that.”

Burnett calls “Wedding Days” a “sweet” show.

“I’ve never done salacious programs or a program that a family can’t watch together,” he says. “When I looked at the idea, the hook was people who give the most get the least. It’s hard not to like these people. They are hard-working Americans getting something back for what they do for others.”

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