Upfront Central

USA: Launching Original Half-Hour Comedies

'Modern Family' reruns to support introduction of new entries 'Sirens' and 'Playing House' 5/20/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern

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STRATEGY: Use the off-network premiere of Modern Family to launch a first foray into original half-hour comedy with two series in 2014.

USA Network's programming family is getting a
little bigger come fall.

On Sept. 24, the Emmy-winning ABC sitcom Modern Family will premiere in
off-network syndication on USA, giving the network a long-desired launch pad to
break into the original halfhour comedy business.

At its upfront presentation on May 16, the network announced its first two
original comedy series --  Sirens from
Denis Leary (Rescue Me) and the female buddy comedy Playing House.
Both are single-camera shows, like Modern Family. Sirens follows
three Chicago EMTs who are skilled at their jobs but disastrous at
relationships. Playing House, inspired by the real-life friendship of
stars and cowriters Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair, looks at an expectant
mother who asks her single, career-driven best friend to return home from her
job overseas to help her raise the baby.

Though Modern Family will join the lineup in September, USA is targeting
the first quarter of 2014 to launch its first original comedy.

"What we want to do is give Modern Family a chance to seed itself on the
air and give a chance for people to discover it on USA Network," network
copresident Chris McCumber told B&C. "Then hopefully, in a perfect
world, we'll have a great platform to launch these two shows."

The plan is to sandwich the new series between episodes of Modern Family,
so that the first original comedy will likely complete its 10-to-13-episode run
before the second comedy premieres.

"With the benefit of Modern Family as a lead-in and the lead-out, and
with the benefit of the cable structure, we don't really need to gang the shows
together," USA copresident Jeff Wachtel said. "We can pick the best place for
each show to survive on its own. "

McCumber described the auspices of Sirens and Playing House as "great
names for us to be able to get in business with" for its first foray into
original comedy. "We're applying the same brand filter that we have to our
dramas -- it's about characters first."

On the drama side, USA announced it has begun production on period project Horizon,
from The Walking Dead executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, about a female
FBI secretary during World War II who begins a secretive investigation into
mysterious files. Also under consideration is The Arrangement, about a
Colombian woman with a tragic past who enters into a marriage with an ambitious
Florida politician.

The eight total projects in development continue the evolution of USA's drama
brand that started with the legal drama Suits and moves forward this
summer with FBI drama Gracelandâ€"both more serialized, with darker
shades though still character-based, and designed to bring a new audience to
the network.

USA has additionally ordered the comedy pilot Love Is Dead, about a
company that specializes in breaking up romantic relationships.


E-mail comments to amorabito@nbmedia.com and
follow her on Twitter: @andreamorabito

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