The makeover of TNT and TBS is underway. At his first Turner upfront, Kevin Reilly, President of TBS and TNT and Chief Content Officer for Turner Entertainment, unveiled his plans for the two networks as well as several pickups. They include a high-profile event series, The Alienist, from True Detective‘s Cary Fukunaga;two drama pilots at TNT, Will, from Craig Pearce and Animal Kingdom, from John Wells; as well as two orders at TBS: a series one to pilot Wrecked and a pilot one to The Group, an alien comedy from TBS late-night host Conan O’Brien and The Office creator Greg Daniels.
As hinted in the announcement of Reilly’s programming team, the changes in the creative direction at TBS will be more drastic than those at TNT, with the company describing them as a revolution (TBS) and evolution (TNT). The number of original series on both networks will double in the next three years.
TNT will undergo a shift in the focus and tone to what I hear is expected to be edgier original programming. The first projects exemplifying that are Alienist, Will and Animal Kingdom.
The eight-part The Alienist, based on the New York Times bestseller by Caleb Carr, was recently taken out by Paramount Television and Anonymous Content. I hear Reilly, a huge fan of the book, went aggressively after the project from Fukunaga, producer Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) and writer Hossein Amini (The Wings Of The Dove), buying it pre-emptively and beating out digital and premium cable players with a large straight-to-series order and big-budget guarantee.
The Alienist, a beloved book that had been set up at Paramount and subject of numerous unsuccessful attempts for a feature adaptation, is a fast-paced and atmospheric psychological thriller set in the gritty world of Gilded Age New York City. After a series of haunting and gruesome murders, psychiatrist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, newspaper reporter John Moore and police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt work together, employing emerging disciplines of psychology and early crime investigation techniques to track down one of NYC’s first serial killers. TNT Original Productions and Paramount Television produce, with Fukunaga, Roth and Amini executive producing alongside Anonymous Content’s Steve Golin and Rosalie Swedlin. The project reunites Reilly, who once served as President of Brad Grey Television, and Brad Grey, the current chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures.
Will and Animal Kingdom both originally were developed elsewhere.
Will, which had a straight-t0-series order at Pivot, is about a young William Shakespeare told in raucous style by Craig Pearce, the longtime writing partner of auteur filmmaker Baz Luhrmann. It is a period drama with a hip soundtrack, contemporary shooting style and edgy production design.
Animal Kingdom, an adaptation of the 2010 Australian feature, is a family crime drama set in a gritty surf community, from executive producers John Wells and Jonathan Lisco.
Lumen, the last remaining TNT pilot picked up before Reilly came over whose fate has not been determined, will have to wait a bit longer as I hear the network has postponed making a decision on the fantasy drama until after the upfronts.
The turn in creative direction comes just as TNT enjoyed its strongest summer in years last summer with its previous push in action, popcorn fare with breakout freshmen The Last Ship and The Librarians.
TBS, whose recent success has been fueled by off-network megahit The Big Bang Theory, will undergo a rebrand by the end of 2015. Its original programming slate will grow to more than 15 scripted and unscripted series during the next two years.
Picked up to series is comedy pilot Wrecked, which chronicles the aftermath of a plane crashing on a remote island. The ensemble comedy hails from up-and-coming writers Justin Shipley & Jordan Shipley and executive producer Jesse Hara.
O’Brien and Daniels’ The Group is about a support group for people who think they have been abducted by aliens and are the subject of a snarky feature piece by skeptical journalist Wyatt Jones. The more he digs into the oddballs’ claims, however, the more confused, intrigued and seduced he becomes. This is the first project together for Harvard Lampoon and The Simpsons alums O’Brien and Daniels who were writing partners post-college on Saturday Night Live.
Wrecked joins upcoming new TBS series slated to debut in the fourth quarter Angie Tribeca, created by Steve & Nancy Carelland starring Rashida Jones, and The Detour, a scripted comedy from former Daily Show correspondents Samantha Bee and Jason Jones, with Jones starring. Bee and Jones are also developing a new issues-oriented series for TBS headlined by Bee. Also this fall, TBS will launch Separation Anxiety, a relationship-based game show with a unique twist.
Earlier this week, longtime SAG Awards homes TNT and TBS announced the launch of a new live awards franchise the Live Nation Music Awards.
“The new TBS will have a huge slate of awesomely in-your-face and effortlessly diverse programming, while TNT will continue to deliver great drama and live event specials, but our presentation and portfolio will look dramatically different,” said Reilly. “Two big, established networks with big resources and a renewed focus and energy, new brand positions, a robust slate of new originals, premier sports and an ambitious new digital platform in the making – it’s going to be incredible.”
Meanwhile, Turner-owned truTV has greenlighted two new series as part of its 2015-16 slate. Adam Ruins Everything is an investigative comedy in which comedian Adam Conover debunks social conventions that most people take for granted, and The Driver’s Seat (working title), hits the road to discover what people really dish about in the privacy of their own cars. Returning are previously announced shows Impractical Jokers, The Carbonaro Effect, Fake Off, Friends Of The People, Hack My Life, How To Be A Grownup and Barmageddon, along with scripted series Those Who Can’t, the genre-busting half-prank/half-sketch show Fameless and unscripted series The Hustlers, Santas In The Barn and Six Degrees Of Everything. In addition, Funny or Die’s Billy On The Street With Billy Eichner becomes a truTV original series, beginning with its fourth season later this year.