Turner, USA unveil new projects at upfronts

Turner and USA Network unveiled their projects to advertisers during the broadcast networks’ upfront week. Usually, most cable networks hold their upfronts well in advance – BET held their upfront presentation here in Chicago last month. But Turner and USA – like ESPN, felt they have a right to sit at the table with the big boys. Here’s what each network unveiled at their presentations:

Turner

Unlike last year’s presentations, which were plagued by technical and video snafus (one exec even lead the crowd into singing row, row, your boat…), this year’s presentations at Penn Central station went off smoothly Wednesday morning, but markers and an old overhead projector were brought out just in case… Conan O’ Brien came out and whooped up the crowd while several members of the new Dallas series were in attendance.

And speaking of Dallas, the new version of the 1978-91 CBS series debuts June 13 on TNT with expectations already high. Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, and Linda Gray are reprising their roles in this continuation of the series (yours truly will have a write up on this new series in a few weeks.)

Other new dramas TNT is launching include Perception, a CBS-like procedural with Eric McCormick as a doctor who works closely with the FBI; The Closer spin-off Major Crimes; and a medical drama from David E. Kelley titled Monday Mornings, scheduled to debut in 2013.

TNT is also returning to reality TV genre: projects given a firm go are The Great Escape and 72 Hours (both reality-competition shows) and docu-drama Boston Blue. Is it a good idea for TNT to get back into the reality TV business? Remember Wedding Day?

As for comedies, the big news of course, is Cougar Town, which debuts on TBS in 2013 with original episodes.

TBS is launching Men At Work on June 24, a new sitcom which stars That 70’s Show’s Danny Masterson as a person who looks to get back into the dating game with the help of his co-worker friends (Wow, a laugh riot.) For midseason, TBS is launching Sullivan & Son, about a Pittsburgh lawyer who quits his high-paying job to run his parents’ tavern. It’s kind of like Cheers set in Pittsburgh. Another series slated to premiere later this year is The Wedding Band, which features Beverly Hills 90210 alum Brian Austin Green who performs in a Seattle band. Smells Like Teen Spirit?

Other series in development include King of the Nerds (another reality-competition series), Tosh.0 ripoff Deon Cole’s Black Box, and Punk’d ripoff Who Gets The Last Laugh. (The key word here boys and girls is “ripoff”.)

Adult Swim

As you know, Adult Swim doesn’t hold a traditional upfront presentation… it throws a party, as they did Wednesday night. Since their slate is too large for me to cover here, you can read their press release here (don’t worry, the same kind of snark I dish out is present.) Among the highlights: a new animated Harold & Kumar series, currently in development; the return of Boondocks (I forgot this series is even still on the air! Okay, so did everyone else…); a new animated series titled Black Dynamite; and yet another title and format change (ha!) for the Aqua Teens. This time, their adventures continue as Aqua Teen Something You Know Whatever. And Something You Know that two or three episodes in, the show will go back to the old format. Whatever.

USA

Yes, Characters are Welcome at USA. And the network is expanding its development past dramas to include reality TV shows and comedies. You know there is nothing in the world that would never make me forget that stupid Don Adams sitcom Check It Out! from the 1980’s, which USA developed with CTV. Characters welcome, indeed. Currently in development to be paired with Modern Family reruns in 2013 include Paging Dr. Freed and Sirens, a sitcom based on the BBC series and is being developed by Dennis Leary (not related to the 1993-95 ABC/syndicated crime drama of the same name.)

USA and WWE announced at the upfront that Raw was expanding from two hours to three beginning in July. Three hours? Yours truly was hoping USA would cut it back to an hour because two hours is way too long. Three is totally ridiculous. How are they going to fill all that time? Showing more people in the crows shouting “what”?

Like TNT, USA is beefing up its reality slate with The Moment (a series host by Kurt Warner giving people a chance to realize their dreams) and The Choir, with an Englishman teaching those with little or no talent to sing.

Dramas in development include Political Animals, a six-hour miniseries which features Sigorney Weaver as a divorced former First Lady who is Secretary Of State (the series has been given a firm go.) Also in development is Graceland from White Collar creator Jeff Eastin, a procedural about a group of governmental agents living at a luxury L.A. beach house. But their job is no day at the um, beach.

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