O'Brien gets serious for pilot at USA


USA Network has handed out a 90-minute, cast-contingent pilot order to the medical-themed "Operating Instructions" from Conan O'Brien's production banner.

The tentatively titled project centers on a top female trauma surgeon who returns home from two tours in Iraq to take a post as head of surgery at a military hospital. It marks USA's third pilot pickup this year following "Royal Pains" and "White Collar."

"Operating" is from O'Brien's Conaco and Universal Cable Prods., with O'Brien, Conaco president David Kissinger, Judd Pillot and John Peaslee serving as executive producers. Pillot and Peaslee ("According to Jim") wrote the script.

Jeff Wachtel, executive vp original programming at USA and co-head of original programming at Universal Cable Prods., praised the script, saying that after he read it he couldn't wait to share it with his network colleagues.

"It has a bigger ensemble than we usually do," he said. "Also, the beginning opens with (the surgeon) leaving her second tour of duty in Iraq, and there are things that happened there that did not finish their story there." (partialdiff)