USA Network has given a pilot presentation order to Benched, a courtroom single-camera comedy to star Happy Endings alumna Eliza Coupe. The project hails from ABC Signature, the boutique division of ABC Studios launched earlier this year with Tracy Underwood at the helm, which focuses on cable, emerging platforms, off-cycle and lower-cost programming for broadcast networks. Benched, from ABC Studios-based Mark Gordon Co., will be directed by Mike Fresco from a script by Saturday Night Live alumna Michaela Watkins and The Groundlings’ Damon Jones. Party Down co-creator John Enbom has come on board as showrunner and will executive produce alongside Watkins, Jones, Gordon and Andrea Shay. Benched centers on Nina (Coupe), a dedicated, career-driven corporate attorney who has a very public nervous breakdown after getting passed up for an expected promotion and finds herself working as a public defender. Her personal and professional worlds are turned upside down when she joins the ranks of the legal world’s underdogs and very quickly realizes that the law isn’t quite as fair as she once thought.
Another week, another ratings record for Jersey Shore. The red-hot MTV reality phenomenon drew 8.9 million viewers last night, beating last week’s record of 8.6 million. In adults 18-49, it averaged a 4.7 rating, also a new record, making it the second highest-rated program on TV last night behind Fox’s American Idol.
Facing Jersey Shore at 10 PM was the premiere of USA’s new light drama Fairly Legal (3.9 million viewers). That was lower than USA’s most recent series premiere, Covert Affairs, also featuring a female lead, which posted 4.9 million viewers in its July debut. However, it’s hard to make apples-to-apples comparisons as Fairly Legal is the first USA series to debut in the winter. The series, starring Sarah Shahi as a mediator, held onto a solid 87% of its lead-in, the Season 3 premiere of Royal Pains (4.4 million). That was down from the 5.9 million audience for the third season opener but that too aired in the summer as this is Royal Pains‘ first winter season premiere. Elsewhere on cable, the season finale of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on Bravo averaged 2.8 million viewers.
After another successful summer of original scripted programming, USA Network has made more renewals: sophomore series Royal Pains and White Collar for a third season and veteran Psych for a sixth season. The Royal Pains‘ order is said to be for 18 episodes, while I hear Psych and White Collar are being picked up for 16 episodes each. The decision was made while the 3 series are still in production on their current seasons (White Collar wraps this week, while Royal Pains and Psych are filming their last couple of episodes) to give producers the opportunity to lock in key crew members. With the pickups, which follow similar renewals for Burn Notice and In Plain Sight (both picked up for 2 more seasons) and freshman Covert Affairs as well as a miraculous final season eight-episode pickup for Law & Order: Criminal Intent with original star Vincent D’Onofrio on board, the top basic cable network is bringing back its entire 7-series slate. ”To have such success with our existing series gives us a platform to experiment and push the envelope with our next generation of shows,” said USA’s president of original programming Jeff Wachtel.
RATINGS RAT RACE: ‘Deadliest Catch’ Slips From Record Highs But Still Strong, ‘Covert Affairs’ Grows, MTV’s ‘Teen Mom’ Debut Big
UPDATED: Cable had another solid showing last night. Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch came down from its meteoric heights last week but was still the highest-rated cable program, USA’s Covert Affairs showed growth in Week 2, and MTV saw a huge turnout for the second season premiere of Teen Mom.
Deadliest Catch at 9 PM drew 5.5 million viewers, down 36% from last week’s episode that featured the death of Captain Phil Harris. After the Catch at 10PM also averaged 5.5 million viewers, down 19% from last week.
USA’s rookie CIA drama Covert Affairs (5.2 million) had a promising second-week bump, up 7% in total viewers from its premiere audience. In adults 18-49, it averaged 2.05 million viewers, down 3% from last week but still the highest-rated new scripted cable series this year in the young demo.
On MTV, the second season premiere of Teen Mom at 10 PM drew 3.7 million viewers, a series high and up whopping 72% from the series’ highly-rated debut last year. In P12-34, Teen Mom delivered a 3.3 rating, up 50%. Following at 11PM was the debut of MTV’s new series If You Really Knew Me, which opened with a solid 1.9 P12-34 rating and 1.8 million total viewers.
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