New miniseries versions of the theatrical hits “Spartacus” and “Papillon,” original crime movies based on bestsellers by David Baldacci and Nevada Barr and a limited-series extension of the movie “Traffic” are the highlights of one of the most extensive development slates in USA Network’s history.
Drawing on a budget that exceeds $100 million per year for original production, USA has signed with its sister company Universal TV to produce three miniseries: “Spartacus,” based on the Howard Fast novel about a slave rebellion in imperial Rome; “King Tut,” an archaeological adventure dealing with the excavation of the tomb of the Egyptian king by the real-life explorer Howard Carter; and “The Crusades,” an historical epic that will focus on the clash between King Richard the Lionhearted and Sultan Saladin of Egypt.
The fourth mini, “Papillon,” dealing with a daring escape from the brutal penal colony of Devil’s Island, comes from Blueprint Prods., with John Morayniss and Noreen Halpern as executive producers.
Jeff Wachtel, exec VP of series and longform programming for USA, said the network plans to schedule many of the shows Wednesday and Friday nights, with Wednesday devoted to action adventure and Friday to crime and mystery.
The Baldacci project is “McCourt & Stein,” about a male and female investigative team who work for the Justice Dept. out of Washington, D.C. It’s a movie that could serve as a backdoor pilot. Dick Beebe has written the adaptation, and the exec producers are Lee Rich and Andy Wolk, for Paramount Domestic TV.
In the Nevada Barr movie, “Track of the Cat,” the heroine is a New Yorker who becomes a park ranger for the Forest Service and gets involved with the murder of a fellow ranger. Glen Gers did the adaptation, and Kevin Brown is exec producer for Jaffe-Braunstein Prods.
Other movies include “Black Mass,” from Robert Greenwald Prods., about criminal ties between the FBI and the Irish mob of South Boston; “Dillinger,” a biopic about the notorious gangster, from Craig Anderson Prods.; and “The Outfit,” about the Chicago underworld, from von Zerneck/Sertner Films Ltd.
In addition to “Traffic” (written by Ron Hutchinson and Bill Boyes), the limited series (all mystery thrillers) include “Point Deception,” from Mark Frost and Spelling Entertainment; “Paradigm,” from writer-exec producer Karl Schaffer, for Viacom Prods.; and “Gone for Good,” adapted by the exec producer Simon Davis Barry from the novel by Harlan Coben.
Two nonscripted series in the works are Arnold Shapiro’s “Crimes of Passion,” which will re-enact real-life crimes, and the latenight strip “Love Report,” from MJ Witt, which purports to bring “journalistic storytelling to the world of love, relationships and sex.”
Standalone original movies include the anthology of psychological horror stories “Night Gallery,” exec produced by Tom Thayer for Universal TV; “Midnight Ride,” set during the Revolutionary War, exec produced by Paula Weinstein, Peter Sussman and Ed Gernon, for Alliance Atlantis; “JFK & PT 109,” exec produced by Elizabeth Selzer Lang and Robert Greenwald; and “Master of Disguise,” exec produced by Gerald Abrams.