USA orders 'Facing Kate' pilot

Michael Sardo created lawyer-turned-mediator drama

After building successful crime and medical franchises with "Monk," "Psych," "In Plain Sight" and "Royal Pains," USA Network is looking to mine the third classic TV drama genre -- legal -- with "Facing Kate."

The cable network has handed a cast-contingent pilot order to the project, from creator Michael Sardo and executive producer Steve Stark.

The show, produced by Universal Cable Prods., centers on Kate, a divorced lawyer who leaves her job to become a mediator.

"She realized that truth and justice are not always being found in the court room," Sardo said. "As a mediator, you lose a lot of constraints of the law; you're a referee in a room with no rules."

Sardo brought the idea to Stark, with whom he worked years ago on the NBC/Paramount comedy "Wings"; Sardo was a producer and Stark an executive on that '90s NBC series.

Stark had been looking to develop a project for top cable network USA and, knowing the network was keen on launching a legal franchise, encouraged Sardo to write the project on spec.

Stark, who is exec producing "Kate" with Sardo and Russ Buchholz, took the finished script to USA vp Alex Sepiol, the executive responsible for bringing hit "Burn Notice" to the network.

"Alex saw the kernel of what makes a USA show: a unique and inventive lead character," USA senior vp Bill McGoldrick said.

With its lighter tone, quirky lead character and picturesque San Francisco setting -- which also is the backdrop of USA's departing dramedy "Monk" -- "Kate" fits the USA brand of blue-sky, "popcorn" series.

With the order, "Kate" joins another female-centered pilot USA picked up this summer, the Piper Perabo starrer "Covert Affairs."

Sardo and Stark are repped by CAA.