Nellie Andreeva

Fifteen months after it signaled a move into half-hour comedy development with its first half-hour script buy under the current regime, top-rated cable network USA has greenlighted its first two half-hour comedy pilots in more than a decade: an untitled Douglas McGrath project (formerly On We Go), executive produced by Nathan Lane who is negotiations to star, and Michael Feldman’s Paging Dr. Freed. “The pickup of these half-hour comedy pilots underscores our commitment to broadening the appeal of USA’s entertainment brand,” said the network’s co-presidents Jeff Wachtel and Chris McCumber.

The orders put USA well on track to hit its goal of having half-hour series on the air by the fall 2013 launch of the network’s high-profile off-network acquisition, ABC hit Modern Family. The network has more half-hour scripts in development. Of the 12 series projects on its development slate announced at the USA upfront in May, five were half-hour. One of them was On We Go. USA ran several half-hour comedies under the network’s old regime in the 1990s, including Weird Science, USA High and Campus Cops, before USA rebuilt its brand as a home of light, character-driven hourlong series over the past decade. Here are descriptions of USA’s newly picked up half-hour pilots:

UNTITLED DOUGLAS McGRATH PROJECT (aka ON WE GO) is a half-hour single camera comedy about an unlucky actor whose Broadway aspirations must be put on hold when he returns to his Texas hometown upon his father’s health taking a turn for the worse. Nathan Lane will star and serve as executive producer. Douglas McGrath (Bullets Over Broadway) will write and executive produce the pilot from Universal Cable Prods. Lane is currently filming Snow White opposite Julia Roberts and will segue to The English Teacher with Julianne Moore.

PAGING DR. FREED is a half-hour comedy about two brothers who take over the reins of their father’s medical practice after his untimely death. Its format — single-camera, multi-camera or hybrid — is yet to be determined. From Fox 21, Michael Feldman (That’s so Raven) will write and executive produce with Katy McCaffrey and Brad Johnson serving as producers.

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