At its upfront presentation in New York this evening, top-rated USA Network is set to unveil a development slate that underscores its commitment to get into the half-hour comedy business with five comedies in the works, including one starring Nathan Lane, one produced by Walter Parkes and Laurie Macdonald and one with former American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi on board as consulting producer. While launching original half-hour series has been something newly minted USA co-presidents Jeff Wachtel and Chris McCumber had been looking to do for a while, now the two are finally making the push with the goal to have half-hour series on the air by the 2013 launch of the network’s high-profile off-network acquisition Modern Family. As there is no rush, Wachtel said half-hour development will be a “slower process” as “we have to find the right show.” An area where the network is putting a lot of pressure is unscripted, especially after the successful recent launch of WWE Tough Enough. USA is looking to unspool its first follow-up reality series later this year. As for the half-hour comedy projects, while the network launched its hourlong series brand with projects in turnaround, including Monk and The Dead Zone, more than half of the half-hour shows on the slate are “purely original development,” Wachtel said. Exceptions include the Nathan Lane starrer On We Go, which was a spec, and Fox 21′s We the Jury, which was developed elsewhere. Meanwhile, the hourlong projects on USA’s development slate, which hail from such producers as Mark Gordon, Doug Liman and Dave Bartis, feature characters that are “more provocative” than the leads on the network’s current series, McCumber said.
Additionally, USA is returning to the limited series genre with The Enclave, a project from writers Andrea and Maria Jacquemetton (Mad Men), which Boys Don’t Cry helmer Kimberly Peirce is in negotiations to direct. USA had success with all three of its previous limited-series efforts — Traffic, The 4400 and The Starter Wife — the last two also spawning series. “It’s a way to broaden the feel and reach of the network,” McCumber said. USA also will announce a new hourlong Hollywood special with Vanity Fair West Coast editor Krista Smith interviewing three celebrities. While it has been ordered as a one-off, the network is open to doing more if the special is successful. USA has been looking to get into the daily talk show arena, and the Smith special is part of those efforts. Here is a list of USA’s scripted series now in development:
SILENT PARTNER (One hour drama)
An ambulance-chasing attorney and his idealistic young paralegal form a powerful team. Their unlikely partnership is a product of the new phenomenon of legal oursourcing: He’s in Florida and she’s in India. Writer/Producer is Chris Downey (creator of “Leverage”). Executive Producers are Doug Liman & Dave Bartis and producer Gene Klein (COVERT AFFAIRS, SUITS, “The Bourne Trilogy”) of Hypnotic. From Universal Cable Productions.
ON WE GO (1/2 hour comedy)
A single-camera comedy starring Nathan Lane as an unlucky actor whose career has been perpetually cursed by the fact that he resembles, but is in fact not, Nathan Lane. After his father’s health takes a turn for the worse, his Broadway aspirations have to be put on hold while he returns to his Texas hometown. Writer/Executive Producer is Douglas McGrath (“Emma,” “Infamous”). Executive Producer is Nathan Lane (“The Lion King,” “The Producers”). From Universal Cable Productions.
M. DEITY (One hour drama)
An unconventional medical drama about a good doctor who’s an even better meddler. In the aftermath of Katrina, he heroically saved numerous lives and now fights an intractable foe: hospital bureaucracy. Writer/Executive Producer is Billy Finnegan. Executive producers are Ann Blanchard, Sam Hansen and Jimmy Miller of Mosaic Media. From Universal Cable Productions.
THE SPECIAL (One hour drama)
In a stark contrast to the stereotypical TV cop, THE SPECIAL is about an energetic, optimistic homicide detective who suffers from hypomania. Despite his high clearance rate, he remains an enigma to his colleagues in a high-profile unit of the LAPD. Writer/Producer is Bill Wheeler (“Empire,” “the Cape”). Executive Produced by Mark Gordon (“Saving Private Ryan,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Criminal Minds”) along with the Mark Gordon Company. The studio is ABC Studios.
BIG IN JAPAN (1/2 hour comedy)
Twenty years after their last concert ended in disaster and they never played again, the members of a popular boy band decide to reunite. Writer/Executive Producer is Howard Morris (THE STARTER WIFE). Project is from Prospect Park. Executive Producers are Jeff Kwatinetz, Rich Frank, Paul Frank (ROYAL PAINS) plus Grammy Award-winning singer Kara DioGuardi (“American Idol”) as consulting producer with Steven Finfer. From Universal Cable Productions.
WE THE JURY (1/2 hour comedy)
A single camera comedy that chronicles the lives of a group of jurors sequestered during a high profile celebrity murder trial. It’s the story of strangers, thrown together in a confined setting, under duress, for an indefinite amount of time. Written by comedy veterans Bryan Behair and Steve Baldikoski (“The New Adventures of Old Christine,” “8 Simple Rules”). Executive Produced by Marty Adelstein with studio Fox 21.
TGIM (1/2 hour comedy)
A look at the surburban cul-de-sac over a weekend, where parents’ lives are ruled by their children’s schedules and the idea of going back to work on Mondy sounds better each passing minute. Writer/Executive Producer is Brent Forrester (“The Office,” “King of the Hill”). Executive Producers are Walter Parkes, Laurie Macdonald and Ted Gold. Produced by Parkes/Macdonald Productions (“A Beautiful Mind, “American Beauty” and “Saving Private Ryan”). From Universal Cable Productions.
THE ENCLAVE (Limited series)
A job opportunity forces a family to move far from their hometown…and nothing is what it seems in their new community. A limited series from writers Andre and Maria Jacquemetton (“Mad Men”). Negotiations are ongoing to attach Kimberly Peirce (“Boys Don’t Cry”) to direct. Executive Producer is Dan Halsted. From Fox Television Studios.
THE EXCEPTIONS (One hour drama)
After serving time in jail on trumped up charges, the debutante daughter of the Mayor of NYC uses her resources to solve cases that have slipped through the cracks. Writer/Executive Producer is Megan Martin. Produced by Reveille. Project is from Carolyn Bernstein and Todd Cohen (“Kath & Kim”) of Reveille. From Universal Cable Productions.
HARD COVER (One hour drama)
The best undercover operative can blend in anywhere and be completely unassuming. Then who better to go on assignment than a middle-aged Mom working with a rogue FBI agent? Writer/Executive Producers are Peter Paige and Brad Bredeweg. Executive Producer is Laurie Zaks (“Castle”). From Universal Cable Productions.
WINSLOW (One hour drama)
Jimmy Winslow is a private detective who’s a recovering alcoholic with a load of debts, a father in prison, and an ex-girlfriend he’s trying to win back. He lacks a perfect record in anything except his ability to solve cases and tell the truth to those who don’t want to hear it – and for now, that’s enough. Writer/Executive Producer is Zak Schwartz (“Entourage“). Executive producers are Doug Liman & Dave Bartis and producer Gene Klein (COVERT AFFAIRS, SUITS, “The Bourne Trilogy”). From Universal Cable Productions.
HOUSE OF CARDS (1/2 hour drama)
A recent college graduate looks for love and a successful writing career at a greeting card company. Writer/Producer is Julien Nitzberg. Executive Producers are Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun along with Gene Stein and Andy Weil of BermanBraun. From Universal Cable Productions.
REGULAR EINSTEIN (One hour drama)
The Duncan’s are a family of geniuses with three siblings each at the top of their academic fields. They also have a younger sibling named Einstein who is not a genius but he is a good cop and with their help, he might become a great detective. Writer/executive producer is Nick Thiel (BURN NOTICE, “Army Wives”). From Fox Television Studios.
TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.