Upfronts 2012: USA to Launch Comedy Slate Next Fall

Net expands past drama genre; re-thinks split-season strategy
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Complete 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 addedMark 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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