In addition to the Darabont program, the cable network has other high-profile shows in the works, added Wright. They include the naval drama "The Last Ship" from Michael Bay and the spy thriller "Legends" from "Homeland" executive producer Howard Gordon.

"The plan was always to also expand our reach," Wright said. "We want to keep developing in the space we've done well in, but we also want to bring in shows that show a different side to us."

PHOTOS: Celebrities by The Times

TNT is billing "Mob City" as a limited series. Its six-episode launch will unfold over three weeks during the traditionally quiet month of December, when most networks rely on specials and repeats. Two back-to-back episodes will be shown beginning Dec. 4, but even if viewers don't watch it then, the series is designed to capitalize on binge-viewing, added Wright.

Although Darabont is quick to praise his new network home, he says that adjusting to another set of standards has had its challenges. Most notably language. TV's great dramas often are violent and almost always steeped in foul language. So it was with some surprise that Darabont ran into disagreements on both these fronts.

"When they say we can use these words that adults — particularly mobsters and police might say — but we can only say it four times — five times would be too many! — it's like, really?" Darabont said, noting that he'd pushed back on the push-back as much as possible. "I'm not picking on TNT, by any means. I had the same ridiculous conversations with AMC about language and stuff. It's just so silly. I cannot imagine there's anybody who's tuning into either a violent zombie show or a mob show who is not prepared to hear the 'S' word. Or that anybody is going to hear it four times and be fine with it, but a fifth time will get really upset or offended and write a letter."

A bigger challenge was bringing old Los Angeles back to life. The show's locations manager, Scott Poole, who also works in finding the New York in L.A. for AMC's "Mad Men," said it takes a lot of patience. Although downtown L.A. still has its share of historic buildings, the area's rapid gentrification, thanks to a boom in condo projects, restaurants and bars, has narrowed his choices.

"There are those parts of L.A. left that are so period," he said. "But they are surrounded by things that are so not. Sometimes, it's just a matter of careful math, how you shoot something to leave out the modern era in a frame ... or you make use of digital technology and make it look the way you want in the edit bay."

ON LOCATION: Where the cameras roll

Residents will recognize some familiar spots: Miceli's Italian Restaurant in Hollywood, St. Brendan Church in Hancock Park, the carousel at Griffith Park, the Biltmore Hotel, Union Station and City Hall. (A separate City Hall set was built to accommodate the scenes involving the LAPD headquarters, the latter was once housed in City Hall.) In other cases, a bit of set dress-up and computer magic transformed spots such as Disney Ranch into bustling Sunset Boulevard.

"Doing a period drama is just as challenging as a sci-fi project," Darabont said. "It helps that you're not inventing the future, but re-creating the past can be a nightmare. But I love it. I love TV."

That's hardly a sentiment Darabont thought he'd ever express about the medium once derided during his youth as a vast cultural wasteland. Back then, the tube was home to "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Mr. Ed." Now, during this golden age of TV, there's "Game of Thrones" and "Breaking Bad."

"I actually kind of hated watching 'Breaking Bad' after a while," said Darabont. "Because it was when I was getting into television and you just know you're not going to get as good as that. You're just not. But you try."

yvonne.villarreal@latimes.com