USA Network is investing $140 million in programming for the 1995-96 season and will roll out a Saturday primetime comedy block with shows from Brandon Tartikoff and John Landis.
Also in the works at the top-rated cable network is a revamped daytime lineup, original animated fare and at least 20 original movies and new dramas. USA jointly owned by Paramount and MCA, also has commissioned a number of pilots, which Rod Perth, USA Networks Entertainment prexy, said is a first for a cable web.
“For projects higher in concept, we need something more tangible than a script,” Perth said, explaining the decision to go all the way to the pilot stage.
The expanded original programming and change in direction for daytime and USA’s original movies are the mandate for Perth, who came to the network about seven months ago from CBS, where he was in charge of latenight. While USA still relies heavily on off-net programming – including “Wings” and “Murder, She Wrote” – Perth is looking to boost its presence in the production community.
New comedies to be paired with “Duckman” and “Weird Science” for Saturday night include “Weekly World News,” a half-hour reality-based show based on the tabloid and anchored by former NBC News correspondent Edwin Newman. It is produced by Tartikoffs MT2 Services.
Also for Saturday night is “Campus Cops” from director John Landis. The show follows the lives of two working-class friends who end up as campus policemen at the elitist local college. “Campus Cops” is produced by MCA Television in association with St. Clair Entertainment.
Among projects in development are “The Mr. Lawrence Show” from comedian-director David Steinberg (“Mad About You”) and “Film-Zilla” with Sandra Bernhard.
On the drama front there’s “San Diego Bike Patrol” in January, which follows the work of four police officers who patrol an upscale beach community on bikes. The show is from Gary Nardino Prods.
Premiering this fall is “Forever Knight” from Columbia TriStar Television. Perth said the schedule for the dramas will be announced in the coming months.
USA is moving away from its girl-in-trouble original movies to higher ground with projects such as “A Road to Galveston,” starring Cicely Tyson as a widow rebuilding her life by working with Alzheimer’s disease victims.
USA will premiere two original animated shows in September – “Street Fighter” and “The Savage Dream.” “Street Fighter” is based on the videogame and will try to combine the action with pro-social messages.
The basic cabler, currently the highest-rated cable web in primetime, is looking to add live and interactive elements to its daytime schedule.
Starting in September, the cabler will run a three-hour weekday “People’s Court” and “Love Connection” block that will include live, original, wrap-around hosted segments with live talks with viewers and viewer-supplied video segments.
More Sci-Fi offerings
Perth is looking to increase original programming on USA’s sister network, the Sci-Fi Channel. Besides more specials and documentaries, the cable web is developing “Trailer Park” with producer Michael Phillips (“The Sting,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”), which wraps trailers of the past into an hour-long program.
Also, Sci-Fi has acquired the original episodes of “Star Trek” when the show’s syndication run ends in the next three years.