USA unveils development slate


USA Network on Wednesday announced a development slate of five projects keeping in line with the channel's "Characters Welcome" brand.

The network made the announcement during its upfront presentation to advertisers in New York that it has a slate of five new pilot scripts for 2007-08 centering on such characters as the members of an FBI team going undercover as a normal suburban family to solve a national security case; a woman who turns to crime solving after a life-threatening accident renders her fearless; and a top crisis negotiator who becomes a relationship counselor.

"Our scripted series development continues USA's mission to bring unique, powerful and engaging characters to life -- something our audiences have come to expect from us," USA executive vp original programming Jeff Wachtel said. "Great characters, marketable concepts and an unprecedented commitment to quality -- these are what make our shows work."

The projects are:

  "The Negotiator" (working title), from executive producer Donald De Line and writer Stephen Falk, centers on a suddenly out-of-work crisis negotiator who decides to apply his life-and-death problem-solving skills to a new job as relationship counselor in New York.

  "American Girl," from exec producer Toni Graphia, is about a woman whose life is transformed after she gets shot in a robbery. Suddenly fearless, she finds herself needing to face danger to escape her daily routine.

  "Family Values," from writer David Titcher and producer Kevin Brown, focuses on a team of FBI agents on an undercover assignment in the suburbs. The "teenage kids" are actually young-looking agents in their 20s; the loving Mom and Dad are ex-lovers.

  "The Oldest Rookie," from writer Patrick Wiegers, centers on a 43-year-old man who decides he wants a new challenge and switches careers to become a police officer.

  "Spying in High Heels," from exec producer/writer Sara Endsley and producer Larry Shuman, focuses on a fashion-obsessed woman who realizes that her passion makes her a great detective -- helping her to discern tell-tale shapes, colors and patterns -- and decides to open a detective agency with her best friend, operating out of her stepfather's hair salon.

USA also said that it will have six original series on the air in the summer, which it claims is more than any other cable network has ever offered during that period.

"With 'The Starter Wife' and 'Burn Notice' joining our hits 'Monk,' 'Psych,' 'The 4400,' 'The Dead Zone' and 'WWE Raw,' we're looking at about 100 hours of original content," said Bonnie Hammer, president of USA and Sci Fi Channel. "It clearly positions USA as an industry leader, the go-to place for strong original programming."

The six-hour series "Starter Wife" will have a two-hour debut at 9 p.m. May 31, followed by four subsequent hourlong episodes. The new series "Burn Notice" premieres at 10 p.m. June 28.

"Monk" returns for a sixth season at 9 p.m. July 13, followed by the return of "Psych" at 10 p.m. "The 4400's" fourth season will debut at 9 p.m. June 17, followed by "Dead Zone's" sixth-season debut at 10 p.m.

Specials include "AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Al Pacino" at 9 p.m. June 19 and coverage of the U.S. Open tennis tournament from Aug. 26-Sept. 9.

USA also touted its ratings growth since "Raw" returned to the network in 2005 after three years on Spike TV. USA said the wrestling program helped it become the No. 1 basic cable network in primetime and also has brought new, younger viewers to the network. The show recently had its best performance since 2002, drawing more than 6 million viewers Feb. 26.