The premiere of Good Behavior, a drama about an ex-con trying in vain to leave behind her thieving ways, is the next step in TNT’s evolution. While the Turner network has long been identified by tidy procedurals such as The Closer and Rizzoli & Isles, Kevin Reilly, TNT/TBS president, is keen to program shows that offer more complex characters and edgier story lines, and ultimately attract more buzz.
Sarah Aubrey, TNT executive VP of original programming, describes the new take on programming as “singular characters at the front of more serialized and more complicated show structures and stories.”
The makeover began with crime drama Animal Kingdom, which debuted in June. The show reached an average of 5.6 million viewers on the full range of linear and digital platforms, says TNT, including 1.3 million people 18-49.
TNT is not abandoning legacy shows such as Major Crimes. “We’re not ripping the rug out from under a profitable and successful network,” Aubrey says. But the network is aiming to attract more males and get its gender split closer to 50-50. Animal Kingdom was viewed by 52% females, according to TNT, while viewers of Major Crimes are 66% female.
Lady to Letty
Good Behavior, which debuts Nov. 15, represents the return to television for Michelle Dockery, who memorably played icy Lady Mary on PBS costume drama Downton Abbey, and now tackles grifter and meth addict Letty Dobesh. The showrunner is Chad Hodge, whose history with Kevin Reilly goes back to when Hodge sold Wayward Pines to Reilly during his time as Fox entertainment president. (Both projects are adapted from books by Blake Crouch.)
Gritty and stylish, Good Behavior has received mostly positive reviews, some citing Dockery as its highlight, others believing she is miscast.
“I’m excited to be part of a network that’s looking to rebrand itself, that for some reason sees [your show] as the way to rebrand itself,” says Hodge. “It’s exciting to be part of something that looks to change and be brand new.”
Aubrey says Hodge brings the right mix of edge and empathy to the new TNT primetime, noting “his ability to tell urgent, compelling stories with real wit,” she says. “They’re edgy and complicated, but also emotional and lively and at times funny and bright.”
Another key aspect of the TNT rebrand is Turner’s well-publicized move to lighter ad loads in prime. While TNT dramas typically run around 42 minutes, the newer ones go for about 50—closer to what the competition does on HBO or Netflix, notes Aubrey. The commercial pods feature a “countdown clock” showing when the program returns.
TNT’s 2017 slate includes The Alienist, a homicide detective series set in 1890s New York; the punk rock Shakespeare drama Will; and Foreign Bodies, a comedic drama about young adults traveling across Asia.
“Good Behavior is the next step,” says Aubrey. “By next summer you’ll see a full raft of new shows.”