May 08, 2014 9:00am PT by Philiana Ng
USA Developing Jodie Foster, Carlton Cuse Dramas; Orders 'Stanistan' Pilot
USA Network is setting its sights on an international workplace drama.
USA has given a cast-contingent pilot order to the one-hour Universal Cable Productions project Stanistan from writer Andy Parker.
Stanistan is essentially a workplace drama that follows the staff at the American compound in the Middle Eastern country of Stanistan, where State Department workers, covert CIA officers and journalists operate in a delicate balance of danger and silliness using every coping mechanism available.
Parker would serve as supervising producer, with Richard Scarth, Mary Louise Vitelli and Project Nim's Maureen Ryan as co-executive producers and Steve Scheffer as executive producer.
Additionally, the NBCUniversal-owned cable network is turning to star power for its ambitious development slate, which includes six dramas, two limited series and five comedies (one of which THR previously reported). Jodie Foster, Jessica Biel and Bates Motel's Carlton Cuse are just some of the boldfaced names USA hopes to get into business with.
USA's drama slate covers a wide range of topics, many with darker undertones than its tried-and-true "blue skies" formula: religion (Brand, from Foster), aliens (Colony, from Cuse), tech (Mr. Robot), air traffic control (Control), the American dream (Boom) and a struggling family dealing with the supernatural (The Farm).
Foster's Brand, for instance, signals USA's desire to join the growing list of networks prepping and launching religion-themed programming following the success of History's The Bible. And Mr. Robot comes on the heels of the success of HBO's well-received NorCal-set Silicon Valley and the upcoming 1980s AMC series Halt & Catch Fire, about the early days of the computer.
Marking its continued commitment to longform programming as it heads into production on the six-episode Dig, USA has put into development Border Lord, an origin tale about the Mexican drug cartels that derived from one San Diego family, and the Revenge-esque The Swap, about a struggling married couple who swaps homes with another couple only to find themselves in the middle of a nightmare.
Though USA's attempts at original comedy (Sirens and Playing House) have premiered to lukewarm ratings, the network is continuing to develop several projects in the half-hour space. (It already has the Eliza Couple vehicle Benched in its arsenal.) THR previously reported that USA was teaming with Amy Poehler, Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner on the pilot presentation Difficult People.
The four other projects in development center on a modern-day love story about an older woman and a younger man (Love the One You're With), a workplace comedy set at a popular Colorado ski resort (Moguls, from Biel), a new spin on the family sitcom (Royal) and longtime friends who become co-workers (Majordomo, which would star Ugly Betty's Michael Urie).
“This slate represents the next generation of originals at USA, with a focus on dramas that are more serialized, provocative and culturally resonant,” said Chris McCumber, president of USA Network. “We’re very much committed to partnering with some of the most talented creatives in the business to offer a broad mix of compelling programming for our viewers.”
USA has more than a dozen original programs in its portfolio, including veteran dramas (Suits, Covert Affairs, Royal Pains, White Collar, Graceland), comedies (Sirens, Playing House), reality (Chrisley Knows Best) and upcoming series (Satisfaction, Rush, Complications, Benched, Dig).
Below are the full loglines of each scripted project in development at USA:
DRAMA SERIES DEVELOPMENT
A young couple move to a contemporary boomtown in North Dakota in pursuit of the American dream and are seduced by the sudden wealth of frontier life. Writer-director Josh Pate (Surface) co-wrote the project with author Rodes Fishburne (Going to See the Elephant) and executive produces with Tony Krantz (“24”). BOOM is from ABC Signature.
Executive produced by Jodie Foster (Elysium), Bob Cooper and Tyler Mitchell's Landscape Entertainment and writer Bill Wheeler, BRAND follows a charismatic man who found his way out of addiction and lawlessness when he was born again into the Christian faith of his youth, joining his brother ministering a small, local church. Consumed with reaching the unsaved “by any means necessary,” his obsession grows when confronted by a brand-new mega-church poised to crush his ministry. The series is from FremantleMedia North America in association with Landscape Entertainment. Foster is signed on to direct the pilot. J.J. Jamieson (The Wives He Forgot) also executive produces.
In 2015, Los Angeles exists in a state of occupation. Some collaborate with the alien authorities and benefit from the new order, while others rebel and suffer the consequences. COLONY is a naturalistic drama about a family torn by those opposing forces, making difficult choices as they balance keeping their family together with the struggle of the human race. A co-production between Legendary Television and Universal Cable Productions, COLONY was written and is executive produced by Carlton Cuse (Lost, Bates Motel) and Ryan Condal (upcoming Hercules).
On one of the last great family-owned farms in the Midwest, a father must battle horrors both psychological and diabolical in an effort to save those closest to him from a long-buried evil that has taken control of his only daughter. From writer and executive producer Brandon Camp (Dragonfly) and executive producers Dawn Olmstead (Prison Break), Michael Bay (Transformers films), Andrew Form (upcoming The Last Ship) and Brad Fuller (The Last Ship), THE FARM is produced by Grady Girl Productions and Platinum Dunes in association with Warner Horizon Television.
The series explores the high-intensity and contentious world of air traffic control in one of America’s busiest airports. CONTROL centers on a charismatic, foul-mouthed optimist who has just ascended to the ranks of manager in an environment where union vs. management is a constant, near-violent struggle. From writer and executive producer Rashad Raisani (Burn Notice) and executive producers Larry Shuman (Devious Maids) and David Wolthoff. The series is from Fox Television Studios and based on the book Hidden America, by Jeanne Marie Laskas.
MR. ROBOT is a drama about a young programmer, Elliot, who suffers from a debilitating antisocial disorder. He decides that he can only connect to people by hacking them. He wields his skills as a weapon to protect those he cares about from those who are trying to hurt them. Elliot will find himself in the intersection between a cyber-security firm he works for, his alter ego hacking exploits at night and the underworld hacking organization trying to recruit him to help bring down the one percent. From writer and executive producer Sam Esmail (Comet) and Steve Golin (True Detective) and Chad Hamilton (Breakup at a Wedding) from Anonymous Content, MR. ROBOT is from Universal Cable Productions.
LIMITED SERIES DEVELOPMENT
From executive producers Greg Nava (Selena) and Gil Netter (Life of Pi), BORDER LORD is the origin story of the Mexican drug cartels and how they derived from one family in San Diego. In order to protect his business from law enforcement, a patriarch splits his organization among his extended family...but money trumps blood relations as greed and hubris destroys the once tight-knit family. Barbara Martinez-Jitner (Bordertown) serves as executive producer and will write along with Nava. The project is from Universal Cable Productions.
Struggling to save her marriage, a woman convinces her workaholic husband to "swap homes" with another couple so they can take their family on a much-needed dream vacation to the Cook Islands. Their dream quickly turns into a nightmare that includes a murder investigation, a kidnapping gone wrong and an international corporation on the verge of collapse. THE SWAP is written and executive produced by Josh Berman (Bones). Jill Green (The American) and Acorn Productions also serve as executive producers. THE SWAP is from Sony Pictures Television.
DIFFICULT PEOPLE (PILOT PRESENTATION)
DIFFICULT PEOPLE is from the comedic minds of Julie Klausner (Mulaney, Billy on the Street) and Billy Eichner (Billy on the Street, Parks and Recreation), who star as best friends living in NYC. Klausner and Eichner play pop-culture-loving best friends who hate everyone -- except each other. Klausner is writing the pilot presentation and Andrew Fleming (Hamlet 2) will direct. Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) is an executive producer along with Dave Becky of 3 Arts Entertainment and Michele Armour of Marobru (Chappelle’s Show). DIFFICULT PEOPLE is from Universal Cable Productions.
LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH
LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH is a modern-day love story about a free-spirited woman who reluctantly falls in love with a Type A man 14 years her junior. Karen McCullah (Legally Blonde) is writing the pilot script and executive producing along with David Janollari. The comedy is from Universal Television and David Janollari Entertainment.
A longtime friendship is put to the test when Danny Perkins (Michael Urie), a struggling documentarian, becomes a personal assistant to his friend Anna Grant, an unlucky in love real estate heiress with a floundering career. Universal Cable Productions is producing with writer and executive producer Jon Tolins (“Queer as Folk”), co-executive producer Urie (“Ugly Betty”), and executive producers Jeff Kwatinetz (“Unstoppable”) and Josh Barry (“Salem”) of Prospect Park.
MOGULS is a single camera comedy about the employees of a popular Colorado ski resort. The series centers on a young man who thinks he’s in charge and the woman from corporate who knows she is. From writers Geoff Moore (“Better Living Through Chemistry”) and David Posamentier (“Better Living Through Chemistry”) and executive producers Jessica Biel and Michelle Purple of Iron Ocean Films. Universal Cable Productions will produce.
From the writer of “Gran Torino” (Nick Schenk), ROYAL is a fresh spin on family comedy. The title character is a recently defected Hells Angel who has moved to the suburbs to care for his deceased sister’s children, but the transition between the two worlds proves to be very difficult for him. Sony Pictures Television is producing with executive producers Schenk, Peter Tolan (“Rescue Me”), Michael Wimer (“Rake”) and Guymon Casady (“Game of Thrones") of Television 360.