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USA Network Digs Deep to Launch ‘Dig’

USA Network brought ancient intrigue to the Bowery on Wednesday night with its premiere party for “Dig,” the high-octane conspiracy thriller set against the backdrop of an archaeological dig in Jerusalem.

The launch of “Dig” is a priority for USA Network as it seeks to expand the cabler’s brand of original series to include SVOD-friendly serials and shows that generate online passion.

The scope of “Dig,” shepherded for Keshet and Universal Cable Prods. by producers Tim Kring and Gideon Raff, is a departure from USA’s past efforts, and the money spent was clearly on the screen in the 90-minute opener that unspooled for the crowd who gathered at Capitale for the premiere and Q&A moderated by Meredith Vieira. “Dig” begins its 10-episode run on March 5.

“It’s been quite the epic journey,” USA president Chris McCumber said in intro’ing the episode. He noted that lensing took place in Israel, Croatia, Canada and New Mexico, “and now we’re about to see the fruits of all those frequent flier miles.”

In all seriousness, the production of “Dig” was not immune to the tinder-box politics of the region. The shoot in Israel was ultimately cut short amid political protests from pro-Palestinian orgs that claimed that the locations used amounted to an endorsement of Israel’s occupation of disputed territories. That flap made for some tense moments for NBCUniversal execs who were branded as enemies online for doing the project with tax incentive coin provided by the Israeli government.

The initial spark for “Dig” came from Keshet topper Avi Nir, who mentioned to writer Gideon Raff on a long plane trip that he’d always wanted to do a show about the endless archaeological work that is done underground in Jerusalem and other areas. From there, Raff teamed with Kring on a yarn that involves a “Da Vinci Code”-like search for artifacts of destiny and enmeshes everything from Israel’s radical Jews to fundamentalist Christian zealots in the Southwest to FBI agents played by stars Jason Isaacs and Anne Heche.

“No one is who they seem to be,” Kring assured. “It’s a roller coaster ride. If you love mysteries and exotic locations, this is the show for you.”

To set the proper mood, partygoers were greeted outside Capitale by about two dozen men in hooded monk habits holding torches. Later they were put to work handing out miniature magnifying glasses — a handful of which were embossed with a symbol that entitled recipients to claim a ruby or emerald gemstone. And as a parting gift, everyone got a “Dig” flashlight.

(Pictured: USA’s Chris McCumber, “Dig” stars Jason Isaacs, Ori Pfeffer, Alison Sudol, Lauren Ambrose, USA’s Jackie de Crinis and Michael Sluchan)

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