Pilots fit network's character-driven brand

USA Network has picked up a pair of pilots, greenlighting the FBI-themed “White Collar” and the comedic medical drama “Royal Pains.”

USA original programming exec VP Jeff Wachtel said both projects — to be shot as 90-minute pilots — fit USA’s brand of character-driven dramas combined with a strong dose of wit (“Monk,” “Psych,” “Burn Notice”).

“For the first time, and for the last year or so, there’s been a sense in the creative community, of what a USA show is,” Wachtel said. “But a brand can also become a trap. We need to push out past what’s expected of us.”

“White Collar,” written and exec produced by Jeff Eastin, revolves around a con man who partners with an FBI agent — against his will — to help the agency catch other criminals. Fox TV Studios is behind the project.

The other pilot, “Royal Pains,” centers on a young doctor who loses his job and winds up in the Hamptons — where he becomes a doctor-on-call for the super rich. Andrew Lenchewski wrote the pilot, which is exec produced by Rich Frank and Paul Frank. John Rogers is producer, while the Firm is attached as well.

Wachtel said the net was also high on picking up a medical drama because of hit hourlong “House,” which USA has acquired as an off-network strip.

Given the recent New York production tax breaks, Frank expects to shoot “Royal Pains” in the state.

Both pilots, which are cast-contingent and still in working title mode, will likely shoot later this summer.

Meanwhile, Wachtel said USA will still pick up one or two more pilots around August or September, once a second crop of scripts come in.

Because of the strike, USA split its development season into two cycles, giving the network “two seasons worth of stuff … a pretty large batch of development to look at,” Wachtel said.

Projects still under consideration include “Shirleyville,” about a war vet who becomes mayor of his small town, and the crime-solving babysitter project “The Nanny Files” (Daily Variety, March 26). Other titles still in the works include “The Negotiator” and “American Girl.”

Meanwhile, Wachtel said negotiations for another season of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” is “looking good,” and that a deal may be imminent.

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