Conan O'Brien, Noah Wyle, Jason Lee, and Dylan McDermott are among the big stars headed to the cable networks
TBS and TNT Are Ready For Their Close-up
A pair of cable networks could finally upstage broadcast’s Big Four during TV’s traditional upfront week in New York next month. Though TBS and TNT (which, like EW, are owned by Time Warner) began staging a programming presentation for advertisers in 2008, the cable nets have a lot more to crow about this year — starting with TBS’ new 11 p.m. talk show starring Conan O’Brien that will bow in November. Given the reach of TBS and TNT, upfront week shouldn’t be limited to just the broadcast nets, argues Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks. ”TBS is the No. 5 network in all of TV, and TNT is No. 6,” he says. ”We’ve earned our right to be there.” TNT has pretty much firmed up its prime-time plans for the next year, including new dramas starring Noah Wyle, Jason Lee, Dylan McDermott, and Angie Harmon and new seasons of Men of a Certain Age, Southland, and HawthoRNe. TBS has yet to decide which dramedy (or two) it will pick up to potentially serve as a lead-in to O’Brien. Contenders include Uncle Nigel, a Gary Cole starrer about a Philly police detective; Glory Daze, a period series about four freshmen who rush a Wisconsin fraternity; In Security, about a sibling-owned private-security firm, starring Superman Returns‘ Brandon Routh; and Franklin and Bash, which follows two streetwise lawyers (Breckin Meyer and Mark-Paul Gosselaar) who join a high-profile firm. Boundary pushing seems to be the name of the game with TBS’ development: Rumor has it the last pilot shows ample shots of Gosselaar’s naked butt.
— Lynette Rice
After a Slow Start, Dragon Is a Sleeper Hit
On March 29, DreamWorks Animation’s stock dropped close to 10 percent after its How to Train Your Dragon opened to $44 million, far beneath the $59 million the studio’s Monsters vs. Aliens debuted with last year. But since then, the sweet 3-D flick about a Viking boy has defied expectations, never falling more than 34 percent in its five weekends in theaters and landing in the top spot last weekend. How did this happen? Turns out great reviews still matter. DreamWorks was able to ride out 3-D competition from both Alice in Wonderland and Clash of the Titans with a campaign that highlighted its critical appeal. ”It was a pivotal moment when we were able to let people know it was the best-reviewed movie of the year,” says Anne Globe, marketing chief of DreamWorks Animation. The message obviously got out: Dragon‘s staying power will ultimately propel it over Monsters‘ $198 million total haul in the next few weeks.
— Nicole Sperling