USA orders 'Operating Instructions' pilot

Drama comes from Conan O'Brien's production banner

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."

"Instructions" 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," "8 Simple Rules," "Just Shoot Me") 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's something that's not like everything else we've done," he said. "What's different is that it has a bigger ensemble than we usually do. 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. There is a truly dramatic underpinning, but the show also will be informed with comedic sensibilities."