Upfronts 2012: USA to Launch Comedy Slate Next Fall
Net expands past drama genre; re-thinks split-season strategy
By Tim Baysinger -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/17/2012 1:00:00 PMComplete Coverage: Upfronts 2012
USA will use Modern Family, which it had acquired rights to in June 2010, beginning in 2013 to launch its new comedy programming, the network announced ahead of its upfront presentation Thursday evening.
After initially stating that they wanted to get something on the schedule before Modern Family premieres, USA co-presidents Chris McCumber and Jeff Wachtel told B&C that having the ABC sitcom as a launching pad was "an incredible advantage" they couldn't pass up.
"[Comedy] is a new world for us," said McCumber. "We want to make sure we have the right product to put out there at the right time."
USA added four projects to the previously announced Paging Dr. Freed and Dennis Leary's Sirens. Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun's Regulars, about a group of customers and employees at a New Jersey bar who frequently sing karaoke, and Kelsey Grammer's The Dicicco Brothers, about an entrepreneur who tries to make it big in Silicon Valley, but whose family gets in the way, go along with Benched and Start-Up.
McCumber and Wachtel said they will start to air certain dramas straight through, rather than split over two parts, like they have usually done. Wachtel said it's something that won't be done with every show, saying the fact that USA has so many series allows for them to experiment some.
"We both have the luxury and the challenge of figuring out where the shows play best," said Wachtel. "Starting to feel like Royal Pains is a pure summer-for-summer show." Fourteen of the 16 episodes of Royal Pains' fourth season will air in the summer, with the other two being used for a holiday-themed prequel movie.
The network is adding six new dramas, including projects from Law & Order creator Dick Wolf, Bryan Fuller, Piers Brosnan and an adaptation of the T. Jefferson Parker novel, Fallen. These join the already announced pilot, Graceland and the mini-series Political Animals which debuts in July.
USA is also making its initial push into the unscripted genre, developing series with former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner as well as an American version of the BBC series, The Choir. The net has added Mark Burnett's Romancing the Globe and Bride or Best Man (working title).
"We'd be silly not to get into the reality space," said Wachtel. USA hopes to differentiate from the average "car-crash TV" that usually fills up the genre. He said the challenge will be "how do we do our version that stays within our more upbeat and aspirational brand?"
Wachtel said he hopes to debut their first unscripted series on the air by fall or winter, but said "we [will] put stuff up when and where we're ready."
McCumber said they are still tinkering with the right balance of scripted vs. unscripted. "There's no perfect formula," he said. "In order for us to grow, we need to find new ways to bring in new viewers."
USA moved its upfront presentation to this week, the same as the broadcast networks, in what Wachtel called "a logical evolution for us."
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