TNT Taps Clooney, Burnett for Ambitious Projects

Turner Entertainment Networks is putting its money where its mouth is, locking in an ambitious development slate that will bring the likes of George Clooney, Mark Burnett and Joel Surnow to TNT before the decade is out.

Leading off Turner’s May 14 upfront presentation in New York, TNT drew back the curtain on the scripted dramas it has in development through 2010, a list of six projects that leans heavily on police dramas.

Of those, the most untraditional concept is Delta Blues, a quirky drama from executive producer Clooney that centers around a mama’s-boy Memphis police officer who also happens to moonlight as an Elvis impersonator.

Also in the works: Morse Code, which stars Donnie Wahlberg as a DEA agent fighting the war on drugs on his home turf of Boston; 24 co-creator Surnow’s untitled project about a harried ATF agent; and Angel City, a traditional, thin-blue-line strip Turner called reminiscent of Adam-12 and Hill Street Blues.

While the broadcast upfront presentations were short on clips, TNT was flush with promo reels, treating buyers to sneak peeks at Raising the Bar, Leverage and Truth in Advertising, starring Eric McCormack as an overtaxed ad-agency creative. The three series premiere later this year or in early 2009.

In addition to the scripted fare, TNT also announced it would make its first foray into reality series development with Wedding Day, a joint effort from Survivor producer Mark Burnett and DreamWorks Television.

Throw the Ray Romano drama Men of a Certain Age into the mix and Turner is clearly dunking a small fortune into the programming futures market.

Turner’s investment in the brand has paid off handsomely, said Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks. “TNT is sort of like the Barney’s of our portfolio: high-end talent, broadcast ratings,