Upfronts 2012: Bryan Fuller, Dick Wolf, Kelsey Grammer Projects Join USA's Scripted Development Slate

Jeff Watchtel Chris McCumber - P 2011
Peden + Munk

Jeff Watchtel Chris McCumber - P 2011

Ahead of Thursday afternoon's upfront presentation, the top-rated cable network shared a collection of six dramas and four comedies.

Hours before USA network crashes broadcast upfront week to peddle its wares to Madison Avenue buyers, the network unveiled a robust development slate with projects from Dick Wolf, Bryan Fuller and Kelsey Grammer.

On offer from the top-rated cable network is a collection of seemingly broader dramas and still more investment in comedy. The latter, which centers on misfits, out-of-luck lawyers and a promising dot-com entrepreneur, comes as USA readies for the addition of its acquisition Modern Family’s addition to its schedule in 2013. Said Modern co-creator Steve Levitan of its impact: “We are proud to anchor USA’s next generation of comedies when we begin airing next year.”

Though subtle, many of the development projects are part of a concerted effort to move ever-so-slightly beyond the "blue skies" formula on which USA was built – and, for that matter, has thrived as the No. 1 cable network for six consecutive years with such dramas as Burn Notice and White Collar.

“Anyone who has success with a specific thing probably becomes a little sensitized to it because people are always parroting it back,” co-president Jeff Wachtel told The Hollywood Reporter late last year. “Our joke on the scripted side is, ‘If we hear one more surfing-detective pitch, we're going to kill ourselves.’ So it's not that we're not that, it's that we like to believe we're more than that.” While other pilot efforts Wild Card and the darker-toned Over/Under that set out to achieve the latter have since been scrapped, summer drama entry Political Animals is, without question, a heavily serialized step in that direction.

The projects join a growing pipeline from Wachtel and his co-president Chris McCumber, which includes projects from Denis Leary (Sirens), Jeff Eastin (Graceland) and Michael Feldman (Paging Dr. Freed). Here’s a look at the new entries:


BANG BANG –An unlikely partnership is formed when veteran hitman Danny is saved by rival novice hired gun Marco, while executing a target.  This dynamic duo pair up to execute contracts, if they don’t kill each other first.  Based on the French television series, Doom Doom. The Fox Television Studios project hails from writer/executive producer Tim Schlattmann (Dexter, Smallville), along with EPS Pierce Brosnan and Beau St. Clair of Irish DreamTime Productions.

RARE –“Tour” is San Francisco’s hottest new restaurant – an exciting fusion of world cuisines that’s drawing crowds across all demographics in the Bay Area.  Part of its allure may be the chef, a mysterious ex-special forces captain who’s good with a knife both inside and outside the kitchen.  Even if he tries to resist his old violent life, he will be unlikely to keep it entirely outside his new establishment. The Fox TV Studios drama effort is being written and executive produced by Larry Golin (Cross Bronx) with Cory Concoff executive producing. 

MIND FIELDS – At MIT, the pranks (or as they’re known there, “hacks”) are truly legendary.  After one particularly striking graduation hack goes awry, a legendary prankster is dumped by his girlfriend and goes underground for many years, his only public gesture a series of grand romantic stunts he constructs with a lovestruck fellow alumni. Mind Fields explores the fusion of science and creativity as these three geniuses reunite amidst the upstairs and downstairs of New York society. The Universal Cable Production project is being helmed by writer/producers Lisa Joy (Burn Notice, graphic novel Headache) and Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Mockingbird Lane, Hannibal), with executive producers Howie Mandel and Mike Marks.

FALLEN– After an accident, a gruff, macho cop -- known for his "act first, ask questions later" approach -- develops the rare condition of synesthesia and suddenly finds himself seeing "emotions." His partner doesn't quite understand this "touchy-feely" approach to solving crimes, but there's no doubt that this new insight is helping clear cases. Based on the novel Fallen by T. Jefferson Parker, the Sony Pictures Television project is being adapted by Ed Decter and John Strauss (There’s Something About Mary, In Plain Sight).  

WE COUNTED YOUR KNIVES– An Army medic returns home and becomes a pharmaceutical sales rep in the hopes of finding the elusive American dream.  Along the way he helps those who cannot afford medical services while pushing the drugs his company sells. The UCP project is being penned by Michael Batistick, with Doug Liman, David Bartis and Gene Klein (Covert Affairs, Suits) and Hypnotic’s Lindsay Sloane involved as EPs.

UNTITLED DICK WOLF PROJECT– An insurance investigator who works at a traditional firm takes an untraditional turn –he gets divorced and marries a trophy wife, who happens to be a man. The UCP and Wolf Films production hails from Dick Wolf and Peter Jankowski (Law & Order) and Danielle Gelber (Chicago Fire) of Wolf Films.


REGULARS – A misfit group of customers and employees at a suburban New Jersey bar express their joys, sorrows and observations through karaoke. The Universal Television effort is being written and executive produced by Andrew Leeds and David Lampson, along with EPs Gail Berman, Lloyd Braun and Gene Stein of BermanBraun.

BENCHED– After losing her boyfriend and her high-powered job as an attorney all on one day, Nina finds that the only job available to her is at the Public Defender’s office. She quickly realizes that the system is more screwed up than her own crazy personal life. The comedy effort, which hails from the Mark Gordon Company and ABC Studios, is written by Michaela Watkins and Damon Jones alongside EP Mark Gordon(Grey’s Anatomy, Criminal Minds).

THE DICICCO BROTHERS – A comedy centered on a promising dot-com entrepreneur who moves to the very politically correct culture of Silicon Valley with dreams of making it big.  His dreams may unravel though when his colorful, blunt and unrefined extended family arrives to “offer their support.”  The UCP project is being written by Ed Cannistraci and Fred Seton (Pierre Pierre), along with EPs Kelsey Grammer (Medium, The Game) and Stella Stolper of Grammnet Productions.

START-UP - Matt and Josh don't want to settle in life, love or in deciding on what job to get out of college. They don't want to be cogs in some big company's machine - they want the new American dream... being their own bosses and creating a start-up. Now all they have to do is land on an idea and hey, waht could be so hard about that? The Universal Television effort is being written by Justin Spitzer (The Office), and executive produced by Peter Traugott (Samantha Who?, Jake in Progress).

Email: Lacey.Rose@THR.com; Twitter: @LaceyVRose