May 16, 2013 4:00am PT by Lacey Rose
TV Upfronts: USA Orders Denis Leary's 'Sirens,' Jessica St. Clair, Lennon Parham Comedy to Series
With Modern Family heading to its schedule, USA is set to add two new comedies.
On the day of its upfront presentation, the NBCUniversal-owned network said Thursday that is has ordered to series Sirens, from Denis Leary (Rescue Me) and Bob Fisher (Wedding Crashers), and Playing House, from Best Friends Forever pair Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham. Both entries -- USA’s first batch of original comedies in more than a decade-- will premiere in the first quarter of 2014, months after Modern Family repeats debut Sept. 24 at 8 p.m. Additionally, the No. 1 cable network has added a new comedy pilot, Love Is Dead, from Chuck’s Zev Borow.
“With Modern Family joining our lineup in the fall, we can leverage television’s most popular comedy to serve as a powerful launch pad for new originals in this genre,” said Chris McCumber, co-president of USA. His network is relying on Modern to launch its comedy brand much as TBS has done with Big Bang Theory, though it isn't yet clear the single-camera Emmy winner will perform quite as well as multi-cam Big Bang has in syndication. As CBS CEO Leslie Moonves noted at his upfront presentation Wednesday, Big Bang is now not only the top-rated comedy in originals on broadcast but also the top-rated laugher in repeats on cable. Particularly promising for USA brass, however, is that there is only an eight percent overlap between the cable network's viewers and fans who watch Modern Family.
Added co-president Jeff Wachtel: “Our new series come from some of the best comedic talent in the business, and reflect USA’s style -- with great characters, strong execution and compelling storytelling." The new entries will join a schedule that includes such series as Suits, Necessary Roughness, Burn Notice and upcoming effort Graceland, a dark undercover agent drama that's often described as the blue sky brand's biggest departure yet.
Looking ahead, Sirens, which is based on a U.K. format, will center on three of Chicago’s best EMTs, whose sometimes silly, self-righteous and even self-destructive personalities make them unqualified for sustaining relationships, friendships and most occupations. They are, however, uniquely qualified for saving anyone who winds up in their ambulance. The series, from Apostle and Fox Television Studios, will star Michael Mosley (Pan Am), Kevin Daniels (Modern Family), Jessica McNamee (The Vow) and Kevin Bigley (Game Change). Apostle’s Jim Serpico (Rescue Me) along with Hal Vogel, David Aukin (Hyde Park on Hudson) and David Leach will serve as executive producers.
For its part, Playing House is a buddy comedy that looks at what happens when two best friends come back together, just when they need each other most. Much like their short-lived NBC series Best Friends Forever, the single-camera half-hour effort is inspired by the ultra-close friendship between St. Clair and Parham. Here, when mother to-be Maggie (Parham) asks her single and career-driven best friend Emma (St. Clair) to return home from her job overseas to attend her baby shower, she has no idea what’s truly in store. The series, from Universal Cable Productions and American Work, is being written by the duo, with Old School’s Scot Armstrong and Animal Practice’s Ravi Nandan on board as EPs.
Finally, the Love is Dead project being ordered to pilot is set at a company that specializes in breaking-up romantic relationships -- rationally, compassionately, thoroughly -- on behalf of those who are willing to pay to not be around when it happens. Written and executive produced by Borow, the pilot, which is based on an award-winning French short by the same name, hails from UCP and Gaumont International Television.
Email: Lacey.Rose@THR.com; Twitter: @LaceyVRose