Turner Cable Nets Introduce New Shows With Familiar Faces
Amid significant technical setbacks, Time Warner 's TNT and TBS unveiled a quietly stable schedule of returning and original programs to advertisers and agencies at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom on Wednesday.
New shows will feature familiar faces such as Eric McCormack ("Will & Grace"), Mary McDonnell ("The Closer") and Brian Austin Green ("90210"), all of whom were on hand, but the presentation's real star was Turner Entertainment President Steve Koonin, who proved an expert ad-libber in the face of nearly 10 collective minutes of technical difficulties due to an apparent power surge.
"Hello everyone, my name's Steve Koonin, formerly of Turner Broadcasting," he joked to the crowd after the second of three video delays.
"[Several] years ago, we had a very ambitious goal ... to do an entire upfront without screwing up," he later said.
By the time Michael Wright, senior exec VP-head of programming for TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies, emerged to deliver his presentation for a second time after glitches tripped up his first attempt, Mr. Koonin chided him with, "Are you gonna say the same crap you just said?"
TNT finished the first quarter of 2011 in fourth place among ad-supported cable channels for total prime-time viewers and third among adults 18 to 49, thanks to strong ratings of its NCAA basketball coverage and dramas such as "Southland." TBS has also performed well, ranking seventh in total viewers and fifth among 18- to 49-year-olds, with boosts from late night's "Conan" and prime-time sitcoms "Are We There Yet?" and "Meet the Browns."
This summer TNT will introduce "Falling Skies" from executive producer Steve Spielberg, and comedic legal drama "Franklin & Bash" starring Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer. Returning series include "Rizzoli & Isles," last summer's highest-rated new cable series, as well as "Leverage," "HawthoRNe" and "Memphis Beat." Ray Romano drama "Men of a Certain Age" is also slated for a third season. For 2012, the network is prepping "Closer" spinoff "Major Crimes" starring Ms. McDonnell, and "Perception," starring Mr. McCormack, who joked that he looked forward to lasting with TNT for more than a season after his failed 2009 advertising drama "Trust Me."
TBS welcomed back talk-show host Conan O' Brien, who had appeared at the network's upfront pitch for the first time last year. "I don't know why TBS can't just do what they do best and run that again," he joked. Fellow late-night star George Lopez, who appeared after several of the technical difficulties, wisecracked, "I got this all fixed because I'm a Latino. And we didn't have a permit."
New shows include "The Wedding Band," an hour-long comedy starring Mr. Green and Melora Hardin ("The Office") that 's planned for the summer 2012, and a new Tyler Perry sitcom, "For Better or Worse," based on the director's "Why Did I Get Married?" films. Other shows in development include a pair of sitcoms executive produced by Mr. O' Brien, "An American Couple" and "Untitled Phoef Sutton Project," and a remake of classic game show "Pyramid," hosted by "Conan" sidekick Andy Richter.