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USA Network has ordered to series Benched, a half-hour comedy about a career-driven attorney turned public defender, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
The half-hour comedy hails from writers/executive producers Michaela Watkins (Saturday Night Live, Trophy Wife), Damon Jones (the Groundlings) and John Enbom (Party Down), the latter of whom will serve as showrunner. Prolific producer Mark Gordon (Grey’s Anatomy, Ray Donovan) is on board as an EP alongside Andrea Shay for The Mark Gordon Co. The comedy marks the first project to come from ABC Studios’ recently launched boutique division, ABC Signature. Mike Fresco directed the pilot presentation.
The single-camera series focuses on Nina (Coupe), a dedicated, career-driven corporate attorney who has a public nervous breakdown after getting passed over for an expected promotion and finds herself working as a public defender. Her personal and professional worlds are turned upside down when she joins the ranks of the legal world’s underdogs and she quickly realizes that the law isn’t quite as fair as she once thought. Jay Harrington (Better Off Ted) co-stars as Nina’s new colleague, Phil, a tall, dark and handsome, if not a little scruffy, public defender and avid gambler.
“Benched is one of those unique series that creates an immediate connection with the audience. The lead is played brilliantly by Eliza Coupe, who has undeniable chemistry with Jay Harrington’s character,” USA Network president Chris McCumber said. “With Mark Gordon and his incredible pedigree behind this project, we are proud to add Benched to our lineup of original comedies.”
The pickup comes as USA is making a big push into the original scripted comedy field, using syndicated repeats of Modern Family to grow its space in the genre as it prepares to launch scripted comedy series Sirens and Playing House — its first original half-hours in more than a decade.
Originally picked up as a pilot presentation in October, Benched was one of a few scripted comedies in the works at USA, including pilots Divide & Conquer and Love Is Dead. Benched arrives months after USA was in talks to pick up ABC’s critical darling but ratings under-performer Happy Endings.
For ABC Signature, meanwhile, Benched marks the year-old boutique banner’s first series order under Tracy Underwood. The unit spearheads development in cable and emerging digital platforms with an eye toward off-cycle and lower-cost programming. Benched also was the unit’s first comedy project.
Coupe’s series pickup brings yet another member of the Happy Endings gang back to primetime. Damon Wayans Jr. is a regular this season on New Girl, and Adam Pally is serving in the same capacity on The Mindy Project.
A premiere date for the 12-episode comedy has yet to be determined.
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