TCM Boosts Original Efforts

Turner Classic Movies is turning to two very big Hollywood names -- Spielberg and Brando -- as part of a diverse original-programming slate that will premiere in 2007.

Making its highest investment in original productions to date, TCM plans to debut five original specials next year, while bolstering some of its showcase events with more talent and texture.

Moreover, the commercial-free retro-film service is going ahead with its first original series, the previously announced Idols.

TCM executive vice president and general manager Tom Karsch called the original schedule “one of our most ambitious” to date, adding that the service doubled its original production over the past five years as part of its ongoing efforts to serve not only classic-film buffs -- many of whom are on the other side of 50 -- but a younger audience, as well. He declined to disclose the outlays.

Karsch believes having projects centered on famed director Spielberg and the iconic Brando will have appeal to younger viewers. “I think a lot of people are going to come to these projects,” he said.

The 90-minute first-person Spielberg on Spielberg, in which he will speak about his work, is scheduled to debut in July.

The two-hour Brando project, produced by The Grief Co., will look at the actor’s life both on and off the screen. Set to premiere next fall, it will include interviews with Robert Duvall, Al Pacino, James Caan and Martin Scorsese.

Other specials in the works for 2007: Bienvenue au Cannes (May), a look back at the frenzy surrounding the heralded film festival, which will celebrate its 60th year; Whispering Corridors: Val Lewton’s American Horror (fall 2007), a 90-minute documentary from Scorsese on the producer and writer of such low-budget horror films as Cat People and Bedlam; and The Men Who Made Movies: William Wellman (winter 2007), an update on the 1973 documentary about the director of The High and the Mighty and the original A Star Is Born.

As for original series, TCM ordered the pilot for Idols, a show in which one of today’s stars sits down and speaks with someone who influenced and inspired them. First up: Alec Baldwin and Gene Wilder.

Karsch said TCM has made progress securing other talent to participate in Idols, and the network hopes to have five or six installments ready to premiere toward the end of next year.

At the same time, TCM is still working on the project now known as Another Take, in which a current Hollywood star re-creates a famous scene from Tinseltown’s past. To that end, Wilmer Valderrama re-enancted a scene from The Lost Weekend.

Elsewhere, TCM’s signature showcase franchise, The Essentials, will begin its seventh season March 10 with Carrie Fisher joining Robert Osborne as hosts. The pair will handpick a number of classic films, with an eye toward bringing viewers better understanding of these “must-see” movies.

Expanding on its guest-programmers feature -- in which a celebrity talks about his or her personal interest in a classic film -- TCM in November 2007 plans to use a new host each night. Chevy Chase, Lorraine Bracco and David Mamet are among the talent that will serve as guest programmers in 2007.