USA greenlights 'Covert Affairs'

Spy drama starring Piper Perabo gets 11-episode order

USA Network's newest scripted series is "Covert Affairs."

Cable's top network has picked up the 90-minute pilot starring Piper Perabo to series with an 11-episode order.

The spy drama, from Universal Cable Prods., centers on Annie Walker (Perabo), a multilingual CIA trainee unexpectedly promoted to field operative while reeling over a mysterious ex-boyfriend who appears to be of particular interest to her agency bosses.

The core cast of the pilot -- including co-stars Christopher Gorham, Peter Gallagher, Kari Matchett and Anne Dudek -- will continue on the series, created and co-executive produced by Matt Corman and Chris Ord.

Eion Bailey, who guest starred in the Tim Matheson-directed pilot as the elusive boyfriend, is expected to at least be a recurring on the show.

USA already boasts a solid slate of original series that have propelled the network to the top spot in the basic cable rankings, so the mandate with "Covert" was to push the envelope, USA president of original programming Jeff Wachtel said.

"This in some ways is the most ambitious show that we've undertaken," he said. "The story is bigger, the production values are bigger, and the ensemble too is a little bigger than our other shows."

"Covert," executive produced by Dutch Oven's Dave Bartis and Doug Liman, will be shot on location in Toronto and ready to launch in the summer.

However, network brass won't make a decision on a launch date until they see USA's other pilot, "Facing Kate," now filming. If "Kate" also gets a stamp of approval for a series order, USA likely would employ its 2009 launch strategy, in which it premiered one new series, "Royal Pains," in the summer, and one, "White Collar," in the fall.

Although USA is experimenting with stripping its original series Tuesday through Thursday at 10 p.m. this winter, the network is expected to revert to airing many of its shows during the summer in blocks. That means "Covert" probably will be paired with an established USA series, though that decision won't be made for several months.

USA has a solid track record launching new scripted shows. Each of the network's pilots picked up to series during the past five years has gone the distance, including hits "Psych," "Burn Notice" and "Pains."