Showrunner Matt Nix Sounds Off on Cable's Unavoidable Evolution

Backlot Burn Notice Tricks - H 2013
USA Network

Backlot Burn Notice Tricks - H 2013

If anybody straddles the line between the old and new guard of USA, the cable network with a rapidly-evolving tone for its original series, it's Matt Nix.

The veteran showrunner gave USA its last marquee hit with Burn Notice (2007-13) and hopes to strike gold again with Complications. A far cry from the blue-sky procedurals of the past, his darker new drama follows a disillusioned ER doctor (Jason O'Mara) who inadvertently embroils himself with a gang after he intervenes in a drive-by shooting. "It's not really a medical show," Nix offered during the series' Thursday panel at the Television Critics Association press tour. "It's a crime thriller with a doctor in the lead."

Read More Michael Wolff Blasts Nielsen Cable Ratings: What If They Aren't Real?

And like a lot of USA's recent efforts — see Graceland, Satisfaction or upcoming "event" series Dig — Complications is heavily serialized. It's a shift for the network, and cable at large, that Nix thinks became apparent during his time on Burn Notice.

"It has everything to do with how people watch television now," said Nix. "A self-contained, episodic kind of show had a time in American pop culture. I wouldn't say it's past, but it's become a [broadcast] network thing. There are places for that. Burn Notice completely evolved in that direction, and part of that was a response to fans."

Nix, who also has FX comedy The Comedians on tap this year, was clear about his desire to not repeat Burn Notice in his TV follow-up. "On the heels of Burn Notice, it would have been very natural to go, 'Let's do another thing like that,' " he said. "I'm very proud that show, but this show is not that."

Read More Cable's Ratings Winners and Losers of 2014

What his now show is also has some very strange roots. Nix told the crowd that the idea for Complications had been bubbling for a decade — since a gang member broke into his Los Angeles home. 

"I was living in Echo Park, kind of before Echo Park had gentrified, when I heard a noise in my house," explained Nix. "I walked into my kitchen to find a gang member in my house. I confronted him, and after he left, for reasons I still can't quite explain, I thought I would follow him. ... Cops came and said that was the worst thing in the world."

Nix ultimately testified against the man — but says the two put the whole ordeal behind themselves when he comically accepted an apology for breaking and entering while on the stand. The silver lining of his scenario is the same kind of thing that will help lighten his new series, he assured reporters: "There are lots of funny moments of the show."