This summer TNT will once again be airing new episodes of multiple original series. Their slate is a combination of new shows and returning ones. Even better than that though, most of the series are good fun to watch. Their lineup of originals includes: The Closer, Saving Grace, Wedding Day, Dark Blue, Raising the Bar, Leverage, and Hawthorne. The network has divided the premieres of these shows into three different nights in June and July.
First up, on June 8 at 9pm, the fifth season of The Closer will begin. The show, featuring Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, has been one of the shows that TNT has built its brand around in recent years. Sedgwick has been nominated for multiple awards for the series and brought home a Golden Globe in 2007.
On the same night, immediately following The Closer, TNT will be airing the second season premiere of Steven Bochco's Raising the Bar. The show, which stars Mark-Paul Gosselaar, is one that I was very ambivalent about during its first season. It seemed like no more than your typical lawyer drama featuring public defenders and assistant district attorneys. The first two episodes of the second season do seem moderately more interesting; it is as though the show has found its niche. The show no longer has to spend copious amounts of time introducing us to characters we already know and mostly understand, and can just get down to storytelling and ridiculous antics – two things that are done very well in the first episodes of the new season. Raising the Bar last year did not earn a Season Pass on my TiVo, but season two will.
TNT's next premiere night is June 16, and on that night the network will deliver two new shows and one returning series: Wedding Day, Hawthorne, and Saving Grace. Taking the last — and the show that airs at 10pm — first, Holly Hunter is back as the troubled-but-great-at-her-job police detective Grace Hanadarko. She doesn't quite see dead people, but she does regularly get messages and advice from her "last-chance angel," Earl. The series, not quite as decorated as The Closer, has still earned Hunter two Screen Actors Guild nominations. While Saving Grace has never quite been my cup of tea, it does have the hallmarks of a well-produced, potentially interesting series and asks questions of itself and the audience.
The show that starts off the night of the 16th at 8pm, Wedding Day, does not. The series is something of a departure for the network as it is a reality show from Mark Burnett. The show, if it came from the right production company, could easily have been named Semi-Extreme Makeover: Wedding Edition, but as it's a Burnett production, it can't get that "Extreme Makeover" tag. The series features two "celebrity" wedding event planner/wedding producers, Alan Dunn and Diann Valentine, who help one lucky and unsuspecting couple get the wedding of their dreams on a weekly basis. The couples are shipped off on vacation (New York City is apparently popular) for a few days as the wedding planners and the couples' friends and families put the whole thing together. Predictably, each show ends with the wedding and reception (MC'ed by our celebrity planners). Essentially, it feels like one is simply watching someone else's wedding video and is none too compelling.
The last new show on the 16th (even if it airs at 9pm, in the middle of the lineup) is the Jada Pinkett Smith starrer Hawthorne, which also happens to be the name of Smith's character. Christina Hawthorne is the Chief Nursing Officer at Richmond Trinity Hospital, has a daughter, and struggles to keep everything together both personally and professionally. The show also stars Michael Vartan (Alias) as Dr. Tom Wakefield, an oncologist, friend, and the hospital's chief of surgery. Though it's always tough to judge a show solely based on the pilot episode, Hawthorne as a character and a show are absorbing enough to have one tune back in for more. Seeing a nursing administrator's perspective on a hospital isn't wholly outside the box, but it's not something routine on television, and Smith is certainly good in it.
TNT's last premiere night is on July 15, and will feature the series premiere of Dark Blue at 10pm with Dylan McDermott, and the second season premiere of Leverage with Timothy Hutton. McDermott plays Carter Shaw, who is in charge of a team of undercover police officers, whereas Hutton plays Nathan Ford, a good guy doing illegal things with a team of thieves in order to help those in need. Look for more on those shows as the premieres approach.