USA lights ‘Smoking’ spinoff

Network to offer TV version of 'Thank You'

USA Network is lighting up a TV version of “Thank You for Smoking.”

James Dodson is writing the script for the project, which Room 9 Entertainment’s David Sacks is exec producing via Universal Media Studios. Sacks produced the original feature.

TV take — which will likely go by a different title — will pick up where the 2006 feature left off. Nick Naylor, having kicked some of his more evil lobbyist habits, will use his rhetorical skills to help people more deserving of aid.

“He’ll live somewhere between the morally ambiguous character of the movie and Robin Hood,” said USA programming chief Jeff Wachtel.

Wachtel went to college with Christopher Buckley, author of the novel on which the pic was based. Exec had been interested in a series version, but “the challenge was how to make that character live successfully in our network,” Wachtel said. “Jim Dodson came in and answered the question for us.”

Even in a milder form, the Nick Naylor character would seem to be a bit edgy for USA, which has had major success with more heroic (albeit flawed) characters in shows such as “Monk” and “Burn Notice.”

Wachtel thinks it’s important for the cabler to stretch a bit.

“We’re really successful right now, so our job is to advance the brand and not be captive to it,” he said.

USA is coming off a smashing summer, having aired four of the five top-rated series on basic cable, Wachtel said.

New effort isn’t the first stab at a TV version of “Smoking.” Sacks set up an adaptation at NBC last year, with Rick Cleveland attached to write. The Peacock ultimately passed.

As for Dodson, he’s no stranger to USA. He developed the script “Damage Control” at the network around 18 months ago. He’ll serve as co-exec producer of the “Smoking” spinoff.

Dodson is repped by Adam Kolbrenner of Madhouse Entertainment.