TNT is selling itself as the place to go for quality dramas at a time when its broadcast rivals are cutting back on big-budget scripted fare. “Broadcast networks are relying on disposable programming more than ever,” Turner Networks President Steve Koonin told advertisers gathered for the cable network’s upfront presentation Wednesday. He even added an extra NBC-directed dig, noting that TNT “is not abandoning 10 p.m.” – while the Peacock will run Jay Leno five nights a week next season.
The “We Know Drama” network will fill its now-three-nights-a-week original programming slate with two new series, four returning series, and its first unscripted show….
* Starting June 16, Jada Pinkett Smith will star as a stubborn head nurse in Hawthorne, which she promises won’t be a typical case-of-the-week medical drama: “You’ll see character stuff, politics in the hospital. It’s more about ailments of the soul than just treating illnesses.”
* Dark Blue, premiering July 15, features Dylan McDermott as an undercover cop and marks uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s first foray into cable after years of hitmaking for CBS (CSI, Without a Trace). Both broadcast vets say the freedoms of cable will make for a far grittier-than-average cop show. “You can get away with a lot more,” McDermott says.
* The net’s first unscripted series, Wedding Day, kicks off along with Hawthorne on June 16. A sort-of wedding version of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, the Mark Burnett (Survivor) production will give celebrity-caliber dream weddings to deserving workaday couples (community outreach workers, Army captains, a firefighter-lifeguard pair).
* Also returning this summer are Leverage, Raising the Bar, Saving Grace, and The Closer.
* And already slated for a December start, dramedy Men of a Certain Age costars Ray Romano, Andre Braugher, and Scott Bakula as pals in Midlife Crisis. “When I told my parents I had this new show on TNT,” Romano jokes, “my mom was very excited, and my dad was like, ‘I guess we have to get cable.’”