Television's big upfront week took its first big turn toward original programming on cable Wednesday morning, as TNT and TBS announced plans to offer 24/7 live streaming and new projects featuring names like Spielberg, Stallone, Bay, Foxx, and Carell attached to them. With a rebranding now firmly built up by Conan and big, bold shows like Dallas, the Turner cable duo appears to have a true Hollywood identity: It's not HBO; it's TV heaven for movie-star pet projects.
To be sure, TNT's programming pipeline is heavy on the expensive passion: Steven Spielberg, whose $2.5 million per episode Falling Skies has had some success for the network and returns next month (along with a show from The Rock and other immediate but only new-ish shows), has two scripted shows in development that call him executive producer. Portal House is one of those—it's about scientists who find a portal for the time-space continuum. The other Spielberg-related project, Peter Gunn, is co-produced by Julie Andrews and will be a reboot of the Blake Edwards P.I. show from the 50s and 60s. Also under development at TNT: Sylvester Stallone's The Last Cop (not to be confused with Michael Bay's The Last Ship, which is definitely coming to TNT in 2014) and Nicholas Sparks's A Bend in the Road, just in case you felt like watching a sappy Sparks movie every week. Actually definitely going on-air as opposed to just in development at TNT: an "unscripted" Jerry Bruckheimer procedural, a show from Homeland's co-creator starring a Game of Thrones legend, and a business show from the director of The Shawshank Redemption. Still up in the air: Geena Davis, bounty hunter. (That's the idea; the in-limbo pilot doesn't have a name.)
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Over on TBS, the development projects are also more tantalizing than the immediate lineup, which includes Ground Floor from Cougar Town's Bill Lawrence. Steve Carell and his wife Nancy Carell have a comedy in development about a woman who works at the LAPD's "Really Heinous Crimes Unit." Jamie Foxx has a show based on his relationship with his teenage daughter (who happens to be his frequent awards show plus-one), and Elizabeth Banks and her husband Max Handelman about a young guy living with an old grifter called Dream House. The creators of Will & Grace, David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, who haven't had a hit since that NBC show,have created a comedy about a barbershop in Boston. There's also a Diablo Cody talk show in the works, which is a great idea based on her Red Band Trailer series.
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With all that star power, might TNT or TBS become the next, say, AMC? A place for quality television that isn't exactly as fancy as HBO? Like AMC just before HBO passed on its old Sopranos writer's new project and a little something called Mad Men fell in their lap? To be sure, the Turner track record hasn't exactly been great. The George Clooney-produced, Jason Lee-starring Memphis Beat bit the dust. Falling Skies has fared better, but still doesn't have the clout of, say, Game of Thrones. Speaking of Game of Thrones, in 2014 they are definitely offering up a spy show from Homeland executive producer Howard Gordon starring the HBO fantasy's Sean Bean. We'll also see how that upcoming offering from Bay does, but, then again, Michael Bay is just more uninspiring evidence that sometimes a big name doesn't make a big network.
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(Stay tuned to The Atlantic Wire's upfront central for the latest on new shows. Up Wednesday afternoon: CBS.)