Turner Broadcasting execs Steve Koonin and Michael Wright soldiered through an upfront presentation plagued by technical glitches on Wednesday ayem as they unveiled ambitious programming plans, including a return to the telepic biz, for cablers TNT and TBS.
As the presentation unfolded at the Hammerstein Ballroom, the audio-visual setup went haywire and derailed TBS latenight star Conan O’Brien in mid-joke.
“I love working for TBS,” he said, after it became clear the punchline clip wasn’t going to play. “The attention to detail!”
After some ad-libbing at the net’s expense (“Beggars can’t be choosers! Just happy to have a gig”), O’Brien gave the stage to programming topper Wright, whom the clip was supposed to introduce.
“I want to thank the fine people at USA Network for operating our board today,” Wright riffed, but apparently the tech snafu hadn’t been fixed. The exec vamped for as long as he could and eventually went backstage while the techies worked.
Finally, Turner Entertainment Networks chieftain Koonin decided to join the act.
“Unfortunately, we had a power surge, it blew something,” he said. “I’m Jewish, I have no idea what happened.”
Despite (or possibly because of) a failed attempt to lead the crowd in a chorus of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” Koonin got the best aud reaction of the morning.
“I’m looking at a TelePrompTer that says ‘still working on it,’ ” he sighed. “Our pricing is not changing on this. I think our expenses are going to go down, if you know what I mean.”
The video returned briefly before fizzling again. This time, the spotlight was turned on Ray Romano, star of TNT’s “Men of a Certain Age.” “They pushed me out here and said, ‘Earn your money,’ ” Romano said as a segue into a short standup set. The video came back up and George Lopez entered with a somewhat rawer routine that earned plenty of laughs.
The third outage occurred in the middle of the pitch for the Steven Spielberg TNT show “Falling Skies,” more than two hours into the presentation.
Among the new shows that Turner touted on Wednesday was new drama series “Major Crimes,” a spinoff of “The Closer.” Starring Mary McDonnell, “Major Crimes” will debut after the Kyra Sedgwick skein — the most successful series in TNT’s history — comes to an end in summer 2012.
Net has ordered 10 episodes of “Major Crimes,” from Warner Bros. Television. Series will center around McDonnell, who played the character of Capt. Raydor on “The Closer.” James Duff, Greer Shephard and Michael M. Robin will exec produce.
Turner surprised bizzers by unveiling plans to get back into the longform business. TNT intends to launch the “TNT Tuesday Night Mystery” franchise in November, featuring a slate of six contemporary crime dramas.
Among the telepics in the pipeline are “Innocent,” based on the bestselling book from author Scott Turow; other authors who are seeing their tomes turned into movies include Richard North Patterson with “Silent Witness,” Sandra Brown’s “Richochet,” Lisa Gardner’s “Hide,” April Smith’s “Good Morning Killer” and “Deck the Halls,” from Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark.
Sister net TBS has ordered 10 episodes of hourlong comedy “The Wedding Band” from FremantleMedia and Mike Tollin Prods. Starring Brian Austin Green and “Lost” vet Harold Perrineau, skein follows the misadventures of four friends who spend their spare time performing in a band. Show is also slated to premiere in summer 2012.
As usual, Turner also released a long list of projects in various stages of development for TNT and TBS. Wright emphasized that both cablers continue to focus on recruiting top creative talent, and will be making a bigger push on the unscripted side as well.
“We understand that exceptional programming comes from working with exceptional talent,” said Turner programming topper Michael Wright. “We hire the best actors, actresses, writers, producers and directors in the business, give them a clear creative target and then try to get out of their way and let them make terrific television.”
Projects in the hopper at TNT include:
• Untitled Kip Koenig/John Wells Prods. (Warner Horizon TV) — Follows family of cops who uncover the mystical and often crime-ridden world of a small town where things aren’t as they appear;
• “Scent of the Missing,” from “CSI” maven Carol Mendelsohn (CBS TV Studios) — A search-and-rescue officer braves the harshest conditions with her Labrador retriever;
• “Gateway,” from Bruce McKenna, Danny Cannon and Deran Serafian (Warner Horizon TV) — Three brothers struggle to bring order to a small town in the Old West;
• Untitled Eric Garcia, from McG’s Wonderland Sound and Vision (Warner Horizon TV) — A police clerk daydreams to help solve crimes;
• Untitled Jay Cocks (Ostar Prods.) — Based on Laura Lippman’s “Tess Monaghan” series of books about a reporter-turned-detective in Baltimore;
• “Enigma,” from “CSI’s” Anthony Zuiker (CBS TV Studios) — A modern-day mystery-of-the-week in the vein of Sherlock Holmes;
• “The Great Escape” (Fox TV Studios) — Unscripted series that challenges contestants to evade pursuers and other obstacles to win a cash prize;
• Untitled Joel Silver (Warner Horizon TV) — Unscripted show in which two contestants are dropped into the middle of a “major incident” in a fictional town.
Projects at TBS include:
• “An American Couple,” from Mike O’Malley and Conan O’Brien (Warner Horizon TV) — Hourlong comedy follows a newly engaged couple’s journey to the altar;
• Untitled Phoef Sutton (Warner Horizon TV, Conaco) — Single-camera spoof of cop and detective shows;
• “Men at Work,” from Breckin Meyer — Man is thrust into single life after discovering his girlfriend has been cheating;
• “Pyramid” (Sony Pictures TV) — Andy Richter hosts revival of the long-running gameshow.