Turner Nets Bank on Original Films, Off-Net Series

Drama-oriented Turner Network Television will debut several original movie productions, an original reality series focused on medical residents and a slew of broadcast movie premieres as part of its 2002-03 programming schedule.

Sister service TBS Superstation will rely on one new original series, a number of new branded movie blocks, college football and a blockbuster off-network comedy block as staples of its new lineup, according to executives at the channels' dual upfront presentation here April 22.

On the original-programming front, TNT in summer 2003 will debut The Residents, a series that depicts the professional and personal lives of young physicians gaining hands-on experience at a major medical center.

The Residents
will join Witchblade
as the only two original series on the network's docket for the next year.

In an effort to help finance at least two original movies a year, TNT entered into a sponsorship agreement with pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson. The first movie produced under the "Johnson & Johnson Spotlight Presentations" moniker will be Door to Door, starring William H. Macy (Fargo), to air this July.

TNT executive vice president and general manager Steve Koonin said the deal will not only promote the respective companies' brands, but will also bring more family-oriented programming to cable.

"We area delighted that Johnson & Johnson recognized the value in the TNT brand for the collaborative effort," he said.

Along with Door To Door, the network will also debut four other movies, including two Westerns: King of Texas,
starring Patrick Stewart of Star Trek: The Next Generation
(June 2); and Monte Walsh, starring Tom Selleck of Magnum P.I
. (January 2003). Selleck's last TNT movie, Louis L' Amour's Crossfire Trail, was basic cable's highest-rated original movie in 2001.

Other movies on tap include psychological thrillers —Framed
(April 2003) and Second Nature
(not yet scheduled) — as well as a retelling of the fairy tale story Prince Charming
(July 2003) and the football-themed film Second String
(August 2003).

This fall, off-network series The X-Files
and Law and Order
will join high-profile cohorts ER, NYPD Blue, and Charmed, said network executives.

which TNT has repurposed from sister broadcast network The WB, will also air during weekdays this fall as part of TNT's cable-exclusive syndication deal, said Turner.

CBS's drama Judging Amy
will debut on TNT in the fall 2003.

Overall, Turner Entertainment Networks president Brad Siegel said the network will spend $1 billion for original and acquired programming and $4 billion in years to follow.

For TBS, the focus for the 2002-03 season is on its stable of off-network comedy series, said Superstation executive vice president and general manger Dennis Quinn. Seinfeld, The Drew Carey Show, Home Improvement
and Friends
will comprise most of the network's daily 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. comedy block.

For the most part, those sitcoms will lead into the network's movie-heavy primetime lineup. Based on the success of such theatrical-film franchises as "Dinner and a Movie" and "Movies for Guys Who Like Movies," TBS will add four more such franchises for 2002-2003, Quinn said.

Thursdays will feature "The Movie Break," offering the latest entertainment news; "How Stuff Works," which will demonstrate how things function, will anchor Saturdays; "Movie and A Makeover" on Sundays will offer female-targeted movies and show the complete makeover of a special guest; and "Man-Made Movies: The College Years" will serve as a lead-out for the network's sports-oriented primetime Saturday night lineup.

The network will feature Pacific-10 and Big 12 college football games, which Turner acquired from Fox Sports Net earlier this year.

Wednesday nights will feature the network's two original programs: Ripley's Believe Or Not!
and its newest series, Worst-Case Scenario, Quinn said.

While not on the same scale as TNT, TBS will produce several original moves, including the action/thrillers First Shot
(Aug. 11) and Christmas Rush
(Dec. 1).

Both TNT and TBS will feature cable premieres of numerous box-office hits during the 2002-03 season, including The Bachelor, The Perfect Storm, Gone In 60 Seconds, The Wedding Planner, Driven, Space Cowboys, Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me, The Whole Nine Yards
, The Patriot
and Miss Congeniality.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.