TNT locks down Garth Brooks

Apr 1, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Singer-songwriter Garth Brooks may step behind the cameras for “Gray Bar Hotel,” a two-hour film from his production company that is a back-door pilot for Turner Network Television and his first foray into series television.
“Call it Hannibal Lector meets `CSI,”’ said Steve Koonin, executive VP and general manager, TNT. The eponymous hotel is a prison that houses the most brilliant criminal minds of our time, who the authorities then enlist in crime-fighting.
The “Hotel” idea is from Mr. Brooks himself, who has expressed an interest in playing one of the prisoners, Mr. Koonin, said, but whether he will be part of the cast is still to be determined.
TNT is also giving a movie commitment to “Judging Amy” star Amy Brenneman, who will star in and executive produce a two-hour television movie titled “The Politician’s Wife,” the story of a political spouse who hatches a plan to end her corrupt husband’s political career while beginning one of her own.
The network also is developing a movie based on the novel “Word of Honor,” a military courtroom thriller about a Vietnam veteran who years later is accused of war crimes. The book is by best-selling author Nelson De Mille.
In other news, Mr. Koonin also is near a decision on who will be named TNT’s new senior VP for original programming. Last December, 23 employees were let go at the originals division, which was then cut back from a stand-alone operation that reported to Bradley Siegel, president of general entertainment networks for Turner Broadcasting System, to a department that reports to Mr. Koonin.
Twenty-one candidates for the new position have been interviewed, Mr. Koonin said, and the possibilities have been winnowed to two industry executives, one of whom will be charged with the task of developing original movies and backdoor pilots for the cable network. That decision is imminent.
The movies that Mr. Koonin has put into development are part of TNT’s strategy of “spinning properties” to series where they can be promoted.
For example, Ms. Brenneman’s movie will be touted on “Judging Amy,” starring Ms. Brenneman, when that series comes to TNT in fall 2003, while promos for “Gray Bar Hotel” might be a staple on TNT’s reruns of “Law & Order” or “NYPD Blue.”
All three movie projects are aimed at the 2003-04 season.