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TNT orders Frank Darabont series

Cabler greenlights six episodes of period crime drama

In its effort to branch out into serialized dramas, TNT has given a series greenlight to its Frank Darabont crime drama set in 1940s Los Angeles.

Series based on the John Buntin book “L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City,” revolves around the decade-long battle between the Los Angles Police Department under the direction of legendary chief William Parker and the organized crime ring led by boxer-turned-mob boss Mickey Cohen.

TNT has ordered six episodes of the series, which has the working title “L.A. Noir,” to be produced by TNT Prods. and distribbed internationally by TBS Intl. Exec producers are Darabont, Michael De Luca and Elliott Webb. Darabont wrote and directed the pilot, shortly after he came off of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” after clashing with that cabler over the creative direction of hit zombie drama.

“L.A. Noir” stars “Walking Dead” alum Jon Bernthal, who plays an ex-Marine cop dealing with corruption in his own ranks. Others in the cast include “Justified” vet Neal McDonough, Milo Ventimigila, Jeffrey DeMunn and Jeremy Strong. Thomas Jane and Simon Pegg have guest roles in the pilot.

“L.A. Noir” is somewhat of a storytelling shift for TNT’s original dramas, which have often focused on meat-and-potatoes procedurals a la “The Closer,” “Rizzoli and Isles” and “Leverage” and popcorn fare such as the sci-fi hit “Falling Skies.”

TNT struggled to draw a sizable aud to its critically embraced ensembler “Men of a Certain Age,” which ran two seasons. “L.A. Noir” represents an even bigger gamble for the Turner cabler with its period setting. And that’s part of its appeal to TNT topper Michael Wright.

“There are wonderful challenges around this,” Wright told Variety. “You want to see if you can pull off.”

Wright emphasized that TNT is committed to fielding a broader menu of shows in an effort to draw top-tier creative talent.

“What we’re specific about is wanting to keep our shows fresh. We consistently tell writers, ‘Bring us the show you know we want, but also bring us the show we didn’t know we wanted.'”

“L.A. Noir” will lense in Los Angeles. TNT has yet to set a production start date or a premiere date. Wright said it’s unlikely the show will bow before next summer, so as to not put undue pressure on Darabont and his team.

“It’s a challenging show and complicated to write and shoot,” Wright said. “Period dramas are difficult. We want the chance to introduce this as an event. We’ll schedule it thoughtfully and make it the event it deserves to be.”

Six-episode order — rather than the usual 10 or 13 episodes, which is the norm for the majority of scripted cable series — is similar to AMC’s initial approach with “The Walking Dead.” That series opened its third season on Sunday to boffo ratings.

The order for “L.A. Noir” also reflects TNT’s efforts to build up its roster to program original series on a year-round basis. The cabler has another high-profile project from David E. Kelley, “Monday Mornings,” set to debut Feb. 4.

New seasons of “Leverage” and “Rizzoli & Isles” will begin Nov. 27.