TNT Goes West With Spielberg

TNT is partnering with director Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks Television for a 12-hour series about the opening of the American West.

It will trace the paths of two families, one American and one Native American, living in the West. Production is set to begin next summer for a summer 2005 premiere. Spielberg will executive-produce with Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey, the co-heads of DreamWorks Television.

The previous Spielberg/DreamWorks cable project was Sci Fi Channel's Taken, a $40 million, 20-hour maxi-mini last December. The team also created HBO's $100 million WWII epic Band of Brothers. Price tag for TNT's series is expected to fall in between those two projects.

TNT is careful to call this a "limited series": It will air weekly like FX's The Shield
or USA Network's Monk
but will be over after its 12-hour run.

But don't call TNT's new series a Western. Rather, TNT COO Steve Koonin explains, "it is set in the West. We're in business with someone who is going to tell a story about the growth of our country, not cowboys and Indians."

The Western has been a star for TNT. Original movie Crossfire Trail, starring Tom Selleck, nabbed a 9.6 rating in January 2001, one of cable's highest-rated programs in recent years. And this year's Monte Walsh
logged a 5.7 for its Jan. 17 debut.