USA Network, cable’s top-rated network, is significantly upping its development slate, with 13 shows jockeying for a greenlight.
Cabler has a drama on tap from “Grey’s Anatomy” producer Mark Gordon, as well as comedies from legit thesp Nathan Lane, former “American Idol” judge Kara DioGuardi and longtime theatrical vets Walter Parkes and Laurie Macdonald.
Also, the Sarah Shahi skein “Fairly Legal” has been given a second-season order, with a 13-episode commitment. Series, which premiered Jan. 20, averaged 4.6 million viewers and is 2011’s top new series in the 25-54 demo.
While USA Network has been atop the ratings leaderboard for nearly five straight years, the net is concerned about being complacent. Its mission of late has been to expand the programming slate — especially with reality fare and half-hour comedies, where the current offerings for both are light.
“I don’t think we’ve ever seen a development slate with this much variety,” network co-president Chris McCumber told Variety. “Phase one of USA was to build as much as possible with hourlong scripted dramas. Now we have a base we can build upon.”
McCumber and co-prexy Jeff Wachtel said the cabler should get a big boost when it begins airing repeats of “Modern Family” in late 2013, and is hoping to upgrade its comedy presence prior to that.
The new comedy projects, all of which are half-hour and single-cam, are:
- “On We Go,” which stars Lane as a character whose life is hamstrung because he resembles Nathan Lane. From Universal Cable Prods, pilot is exec produced by Lane and Douglas McGrath, who penned the pilot.
- “Big in Japan, also from UCP, brings back a popular boy band 20 years after they vowed to never play again. DioGuardi serves as a consulting producer. Jeff Kwatinetz, Rich Frank, Paul Frank and writer Howard Morris are exec producing.
- “We the Jury” looks at jurors sequestered for a high-profile celebrity murder trial. Written by Bryan Behair and Steve Baldikoski and executive produced by Marty Adelstein. Produced by Fox 21.
- “TGIM” examines a suburban neighborhood where the parents’ lives are ruled by their children’s schedules. Parks and Macdonald, the team behind such films as “Saving Private Ryan” and “American Beauty,” will exec produce with Ted Gold and writer Brent Forrester. Pilot comes from UCP.
- “House of Cards,” from producers Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun, about a college graduate who finds a job at a greeting card company.
Dramas are led by exec producer Gordon’s “The Special,” from ABC Studios. Project centers on an optimistic LAPD homicide detective who suffers from hypomania, an abnormal condition characterized by extreme excitement. Bill Wheeler is writer and producer.
Other dramas include UCP’s “Silent Partner,” exec produced by Doug Liman and Dave Bartis, about a Florida-based attorney and his Indian-based paralegal; writer Billy Finnegan’s “M. Deity,” about a doctor who tries to fight hospital bureaucracy; and Reveille’s “The Exceptions” features the daughter of a Gotham mayor who helps solve criminal cases.
There’s also “Hard Cover,” about an average mom who goes undercover as an FBI agent; “Winslow,” the story of a private detective who fails miserably in his personal life but knows how to solve crimes; and “Regular Einstein,” about a young cop trying to become a detective.
And from “Mad Men” writers Andre and Maria Jacquemetton comes “The Enclave,” a limited series about a family who moves to a new community, and nothing is what it seems. “Boys Don’t Cry” helmer Kimberly Peirce is in negotiations to direct; from Fox Television Studios and exec producer Dan Halstead.
With 13 new shows in development, as well as concepts the network has previously been looking at and remain in the mix, Wachtel believes USA will have plenty of quality projects to choose from. The mission, however, is to go forward with select shows that fit the brand rather than just greenlighting a large quantity to fill the cabler’s airwaves.
“It’s not a volume game for us,” Wachtel said. “Our approach has been to be very careful about shows we do: Find the right actor and right idea and put the entire resources of the network behind the launch.”