Turner has big plans for ‘Dallas’

Cabler juggling a host of other drama development

If summer sensation “Rizzoli & 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 in only a few months. At the Television Critics Tour in Pasadena, TNT-TBS programming chief Michael Wright 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 what made “Who Shot J.R?” a national catchphrase.

“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 Downstairs’ paradigm. If it wasn’t the rich and poor, it was attitude – entitlement versus a populist point of view. This covers all that.”

Before “Dallas” hits the airwaves, however – and there’s little reason to believe the show won’t be picked up for series – TNT is launching two new dramas in June: legal dramedy “Franklin & Bash” with Mark-Paul Gosselaar and sci-fi skein “Falling Skies,” starring Noah Wyle as an insurgent trying to fight off an alien force.

TNT is set to wrap the first six episodes of season two of “Men of a Certain Age,” which has gotten plenty of critical plaudits, but saw a slight decrease in 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 gamechanger for the network, and remained a ratings powerhouse for the sixth season.

Wright was grateful the show will run for seven seasons considering Sedgwick only had a six-year pact.

“That was sort of a gift,” he said. “We would’ve loved for her to more if she wanted to but that wasn’t expected, nor was there a deal for it.”

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, Lopez’s numbers have gone up at midnight as well, giving the net a more competitive latenight presence.

And more importantly, Wright added, “Conan” is a unifying theme to TBS’ programs. 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 in a small Pacific Northwest town as a police officer. One day her father arrives from Gotham and becomes her partner.

Gumshoe drama “Hollywood & Vine” has yet to go before the cameras. Wright said a lead actor has yet to be cast.