Cable Networks Draw Big Names For New 2009 Series

Cable series may have turned James Gandolfini and Michael C. Hall into superstars, respectively. But a new slew of cable shows for 2009 are bringing in the big names, hoping already-established stars will bring in the viewers.

Several big names have lined up cable projects for the New Year, including Thomas Jane, Maria Bello and Edie Falco.

Bello, whose film credits include “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,” “A History of Violence” and “Shattered,” has just inked a deal with HBO to develop and star in a new series, Variety reported on Monday.

The as-of-yet untitled project will star Bello as a woman who is forced into a life of crime to support her three teenage sons after her husband is killed. She even goes as far as to hire her sons as henchmen, taking the whole family down a destructive path.

The series will be created and written by Gary Lennon, who also worked as a writer on the recently-wrapped F/X series, “The Shield.”

The new series also marks a return to the small screen for Bello, who starred as Dr. Anna Del Amico for two seasons on NBC’s “ER.”

HBO also bagged actor Thomas Jane for its new dark comedy, “Hung.”

In the series, which recently wrapped production, Jane will play Ray – a legendary high school athlete-turned-monotonous-basketball coach/family man who decides to use his most formidable physical attribute to reinvigorate his life.

“Hung” will also star actress Jane Adams (“The Brave One,” “Last Holiday”) as Ray’s wife.

The series will be produced by “Sideways” helmer Alexander Payne.

Stars aside, HBO also corralled some big name behind-the-camera guys to spearhead a new project as well.

Big screen mavens Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay will team up as co-executive producers for “Cocaine Cowboys,” a drama based on the documentary of the same name, which revolves around the origins of cocaine smuggling in Miami in the early 1970s.

The project marks the first cable TV pilot for Bruckheimer, who is also the man behind such ratings giants as “Without A Trace,” “Cold Case” and the “CSI” franchise.

HBO has another Mark Wahlberg project in the works. Next up for the “Entourage” producer is Wall Street-based hustler story “How To Make It in America,” starring “October Road’s” Bryan Greenberg. The cabler has also order “Bored to Death” to series, starring Jason Schwartzman as a struggling alcoholic Brooklyn writer, who pretends he’s a private detective.

Not to be outdone, Showtime (who this year, along with HBO, snagged more Golden Globe than any broadcast network) secured a couple of high-quality names for their own upcoming series.

Toni Collette will star in “The United States of Tara,” a dark dramedy about a mother (Collette) who suffers from a multiple personality disorder. The series premieres on January 18, 2009.

Although she’s appeared in several TV Movies of the Week, “Tara” will mark the first small screen series for the actress, whose big screen credits include “Little Miss Sunshine” and “The Sixth Sense.”

But Collette won’t be Showtime’s only prize dame when it unveils it’s new schedule.

Former “Sopranos” first lady Edie Falco will star in the comedy “Nurse Jackie,” about a brilliant-yet-personal-life-challenged nurse in a gritty New York City hospital.

“Twilight” star Peter Facinelli – aka Mr. Jennie Garth – will also star as one of the hospital’s doctors.

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