Category: USA

Upfronts 2012: USA bets big on comedy

Denis Leary
NEW YORK — USA Network, which has found ratings success with its quirky dramas such as "White Collar," "Necessary Roughness" and "Burn Notice," is making an aggressive push into comedy.

The network is unveiling a slate of projects to advertisers Thursday during its upfront presentation that includes new shows produced by Kelsey Grammer and Denis Leary. The network is planning to have new sitcoms in its schedule next year and will use reruns of the ABC hit "Modern Family" as a promotional platform.

Among the sitcoms USA is developing are "Sirens" from Leary about jaded emergency medical technicians. For Leary, this is familiar ground. He starred and produced ABC's underappreciated comedy "The Job" about New York detectives and the critically acclaimed "Rescue Me" on FX. "Sirens" will be lighter in tone than "Rescue Me" and more along lines of "The Job," which was often described as a show better suited to cable than broadcast.

VIDEO: Watch 2012 TV previews

Also in the works is "The Dicicco Brothers" from Grammer, who will produce the sitcom about a dot-com entrepreneur who is struggling to make the cultural adjustment to Silicon Valley and gets little help from his unrefined family.

Looking to join the growing number of shows that feature a musical component ("Glee," "Smash" and ABC's new "Nashville,") USA is also hoping to hit the right note with "Regulars" about a group of friends who blow off steam at a karaoke bar.

In addition, USA revealed new drama projects including "Bang Bang" about rival hitmen who decide to become partners; "Rare," about a trendy restaurant whose chef had a secret life as a member of the military, and a show from "Law & Order" creator Dick Wolf about an insurance investigator whose new trophy wife is a man.

On the reality front, USA confirmed plans to go ahead with its version of a reality show about weddings. However, "Bride or Best Man" is actually about what happens when the men plan the big day.

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Photo: Denis Leary. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

 

'Common Law' review: USA brings bromance to a police drama

Warren Kole and Michael Ealy on "Common Law"
This post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.

The motto of USA is “characters welcome,” and over the years, those characters have developed something of a pattern — the women are feisty and single, the men come in mismatched pairs. “Common Law,” which premieres Friday, does little to advance the brand. It is nowhere near as smart as “White Collar” or as strangely touching as “Necessary Roughness” and seems content to hit well-worn marks, though more than occasionally with welcome style. Call it USA Lite.

That said, the central conceit of co-creators Cormac and Marianne Wibberley is the amusing and inevitable culmination of a narrative device that began with Achilles and Patroclus and made its way through Butch and Sundance to become de rigueur on modern television: When a bromance goes wrong, should the couple call it quits or try a little therapy first?

Travis Marks (Michael Ealy) and Wes Mitchell (Warren Kole) may be the best detectives to ever hit the LAPD but they spend as much time arguing as they do detecting. In a last-ditch effort to save their seven-year partnership, and their individual careers, their captain (Jack McGee) orders them into couples therapy. And not just couples therapy, but group couples therapy, which is where we meet them attempting to explain their cantankerous relationship to a handful of married folk and the sexy but take-no-prisoners psychiatrist, Dr. Ryan (Sonya Walger). So while they’re solving murders and keeping various department vultures off their backs, they’re also, reluctantly, attempting to learn something about adult communication.

It’s an almost fatally cutesy set-up, complete with the requisite opposites-attract tension — Travis is a free spirited Lothario with foster child issues and street cred while Wes is a tightly wound former lawyer carrying the weight of OCD tendencies and a torch for his ex-wife. Fortunately, like all USA shows, it is brilliantly cast. Both leads -- young (check), handsome (check, check) -- have recently done yeoman’s work on shows that did not succeed, so there is the added satisfaction of seeing them land in roles well-suited to their talents.

Ealy, fresh off last year’s “Flash Forward” (and this year’s “Think Like a Man”) has an easy comedic fierceness that may very well have been born by his character’s complicated childhood, and Kole (“The Chicago Code” ) embodies a more buttoned-down but no less potent (or banter-ready) type anger.

Although the show clearly does not take the therapy angle too seriously — surely a group session is not the best solution for these guys — neither does it dismiss its worth, using the more traditional guidelines of marriage to prove that there can be not trust without honest understanding.

Oh, and they catch some bad guys, too. Though it’s tough to keep track of the work when there’s so much going on at home.

[Updated at 4:40 p.m.:  This post originally stated that "Common Law" premiered on Sunday rather than Friday and has been corrected.]

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 -- Mary McNamara

Photo: Warren Kole and Michael Ealy in "Common Law." Credit: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle / USA Network

Critic's Notebook: A farewell to 'In Plain Sight'

Marshall-makes-a-toast
“In Plain Sight,” the USA Network series about witness protection, came to an end last Friday after five fine seasons. Although it was, in its broad outlines, a familiar thing, a basic-cable cop show with comically bantering leads -- Mary McCormack and Frederick Weller as Albuquerque-based federal marshals -- it had its own peculiar rhythms. At its best it was as smart and rich and complex as any of television's more outwardly serious and loudly celebrated cable dramas; I followed it, purely for pleasure, from first episode to last.

Every television show is eventually about family, whether it is about “a family,” and the more so the more it goes on, as the characters and the people who play them -- and we, the people who watch them -- accumulate shared history. “In Plain Sight” was about three sorts of family: the blood relations of McCormack's Mary Shannon; the people she worked alongside; and the clients it was her job to protect, from those who would do them harm but more often from themselves. Each had its challenges.

Creator David Maples departed after the second season over disagreements with the network about the show's tone; USA, whose slogan is “Characters welcome,” wanted something lighter. But if the series that ended last week was more comedy than drama, it was still informed by Maples’ grittier vision. Without that early groundwork, without the characters having been sent to extremes – the first season ended with a long confrontation between Mary, her alcoholic mother (Lesley Ann Warren) and trouble-magnet sister (Nichole Hiltz) that had the weight and intensity of an O’Neill play -- it would have been less substantial, believable and genuinely affecting.

Continue reading »

Hot off 'Think Like a Man,' Michael Ealy preps for 'Common Law'

Michael Ealy will see if his good fortunes continue with the premiere of USA network's 'Common Law'

Establishing a connection with a partner is Michael Ealy's forte these days.

In "Think Like A Man," currently in theaters, the actor plays Dominic, a dreamer who has his eyes set on a self-assured, self-sufficient woman, played by Taraji P. Henson. On Tuesday, he'll shift his attention to establishing a connection with another kind of mate when his new television show, "Common Law," makes its debut. 

In the USA network dramedy, Ealy plays Travis Marks, an LAPD detective who just can't seem to get along with his partner, Wes Mitchell, played by Warren Kole ("The Chicago Code"). And because bosses tend to make things worse, their captain is forcing them to attend couples' therapy so that they can continue to excel at solving crimes -- instead of bickering.

Show Tracker spoke to Ealy about the new gig, shooting in New Orleans and the art of making running scenes look less tragic.

We’ve seen you on TV before. Had you been looking to play a more central role again?

Yeah, you know, I was the lead of a show called "Sleeper Cell" years ago on Showtime. It was a critical darling and I think after that, like most actors, you tend to go do something different. After I finished that show, I ended up doing three movies and started running down the path of the movie role. Then things kind of slowed down and I changed course, changed my focus and went back to television. That's how I ended up on all of those shows ["The Good Wife," "Californication"]. I was just looking for an opportunity to get back into a lead role on television.

"Common Law" has been described as "The Odd Couple" set in a cop procedural. How would you describe the dynamic between Travis and Wes and why it's worth going through all this trouble to mend their relationship?

To me, the idea that these guys are sent to couple's therapy -- it's worth it because their arrest record is immaculate. That's one of the things we focus on in one of the episodes. They're actually really good at what they do and in order to keep them together, this is the last alternative.

The series is set in Los Angeles but you guys shot in New Orleans. What was that like?

Continue reading »

Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show coverage to begin on two channels

Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

The Grammys get one night, so do the Oscars, but the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will be broadcast on two nights on two channels, making sure dog lovers everywhere get maximum furry fulfillment.

The canine celebration begins at 8 p.m. Monday on USA, from Madison Square Garden, but it will last only an hour. (The pretty dogs serve as a lead-in to WWE's "Monday Night Raw," making for quite a jarring audience change-up.) Those who want more in-depth coverage can switch to CNBC at 9 p.m. for two more hours. Monday's coverage will include the hound, toy, herding and non-sporting groups.

The coverage will resume on USA at 8 p.m. Tuesday for three hours and will cover sporting, working and terrier groups, as well as best in show.

Among the estimated 2,500 dogs in this year's show are six breeds never before included as part of the country's most prestigious dog event. According to the Associated Press, the new breeds are the Mexican hairless xoloitzcuintli, the Entlebucher mountain dog, the Norwegian lundehund, the American English coonhound, the Finnish lapphund and the Cesky terrier.

 Fans of Martha Stewart in particular may want to tune in tonight as [SPOILER ALERT] the TV host's chow chow, Genghis Khan won best in breed on the show's first day.

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Photo: Nikkie Kinzigner performs a trick with Tibetan terrier Reese backstage at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Photo credit: Michael Nagle / Getty Images,

USA Network mixes politics and family in new 'Political Animals'

Greg Berlanti behind USA's 'Political Animals'
Just in time for the presidential election, USA Network announced Monday its upcoming mini-series  “Political Animals."

Slated for a summer release, the six-hour drama will center on a fictional former first family in turmoil. Elain Barrish is a former first lady divorcee and current secretary of State who is juggling her political duties with family life.  

Greg  Berlanti (Brothers & Sisters" and “Dirty Sexy Money”) wrote and will direct the pilot and serve as executive producer of the series along with veteran producer Laurence Mark (“Dreamgirls,” “Jerry Maguire).

"Political Animals" signals a more serious turn for the network, which has built a successful slate of blue-sky programming with programs such as "Burn Notice" and "White Collar." 

No casting decisions have been made.

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--Yvonne Villarreal

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Photo: Writer-director Greg Berlanti is photographed at his office in Glendale in September 2010. Credit: Christina House / For The Times

SAG Awards: Patrick J. Adams awoke to 'Suits' surprise

Patrick J Adams of Suits SAG nominee
Patrick J. Adams’ dream came true this morning — quite literally. He was fast asleep in Los Angeles, in the wee hours of the morning, when he got sucked into a hazy vortex of cellphone vibrations. He awoke to six missed calls. One of them was from his manager, delivering the out-of-the-blue news: He’d scored a SAG nomination for best actor in a drama series for his role on USA Network’s “Suits.”

 “To be honest, I didn’t even know this was happening today,” said the award newbie.  “I thought something terrible had happened and picked up and found out quite the opposite. I’m just trying to wrap my head around it.”

Adams is admittedly overwhelmed by the sudden storm of attention. Not only is the Screen Actors Guild nod his first award nomination, he’s also never attended a red-carpet award ceremony, of any kind.  “This is my first year for a lot of this stuff. This is all brand new to me. It’s been such a whirlwind of a year. I never, ever imagined it would get to this point. You don’t expect anything — it’s been all about learning, this year.”

Along those lines, he’s less intimidated and more inspired by the heavy-hitting contenders in his category, which include Steve Buscemi, Kyle Chandler, Bryan Cranston and Michael C. Hall. Over the years, he’s watched their careers closely and looked at all four actors as role models. “They’re all teachers, in a sense. I’ve watched how they work, week to week, and how they conduct themselves in their lives. These are just incredible men. So to be amongst them in this way— I haven’t processed it yet. It’s such an insane honor to walk among them. I’m speechless.”

"Suits" may not be quite as well known as "Dexter," "Boardwalk Empire," "Breaking Bad" and "Friday Night Lights," but Adams is hopeful that his nomination will boost the show's profile and draw new audiences. “The other [nominated actors’] shows are critically acclaimed shows that have changed the landscape of television. If we could get some of those people who follow shows that dare to be different, it just encourages our show to take more risks and to be brave and to continue to evolve in a way people don’t necessarily expect.”

Adams just wrapped up a play, “Nine Circles,” in Los Angeles and will soon show up as a recurring character on HBO’s “Luck,” which premieres in January.  But he’d really like to begin exploring bigger film roles.

“I’ve done a lot of smaller indie films, but I’ve never been in a studio film environment. That’s another brave new world!”

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Photo: Patrick J. Adams in "Suits." Credit: David Giesbrecht/USA.

'Covert Affairs' among summer series renewed by USA

Covert 
 
USA has renewed its entire slate of summer series, picking up "Covert Affairs," "Necessary Roughness" and "Royal Pains."

The renewals follow orders for new seasons of its "White Collar," "Suits," "Burn Notice" and "In Plain Sight."

Chris McCumber and Jeff Wachtel, co-presidents of the network, said that its original programming "blew through all expectations this summer. We had an unprecedented number of original series on our air -- and every one of them performed great."

The new 16-episode orders are for Season 3 of "Covert Affairs," Season 2 of "Necessary Roughness" and Season 4 of "Royal Pains."

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Photo: Christopher Gorham (left), Piper Perabo and Sendhil Ramamurthy of "Covert Affairs"

Credit: Frank Ockenfels / USA

 

 

USA network greenlights two comedies

Nathan Lane to executive producer USA comedy

USA network announced Tuesday that is has picked up two half-hour comedies.

The untitled project from Douglas McGrath ("Bullets Over Broadway,” “I Don’t Know How She Does It”) centers on an unlucky Broadway actor whose career is stalled when he returns to his Texas hometown to tend to his ailing father. Previously titled "On We Go," the series touts Nathan Lane ("The Birdcage," "The Producers") as an executive producer; he's also in negotiations to star in the series.

Meanwhile, "Paging Dr. Freed" is about two brothers who inherit their father's medical practice. Michael Feldman (“That’s So Raven,” “Everybody Loves Raymond”) will write and executive produce.

The additions help beef up the network's comedy roster. The network also recently acquired the rights to "Modern Family," with repeats scheduled to air beginning in fall 2013.

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Photo: Nathan Lane. Credit: Associated Press

USA Network renews 'Suits'

Suits

USA Network announced Thursday the second-season renewal of its legal-buddy series "Suits."

Sixteen epiosdes have been ordered for its sophomore return -- four more than this season.

The series stars Gabriel Macht as Harvey Specter, a suave associate at a top Manhattan law firm who hires and mentors college dropout (and law-fleeing) Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) as his new associate.

The season finale of its debut season airs Sept. 8.

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Photo: Gabriel Macht, left, as Harvery Specter and Patrick J. Adams as Mike Ross in a scene from "Suits." Credit: USA

Q+A: Gabriel Macht 'Suits' up for USA network

Macht2 
On USA network, it's no secret that characters are welcome. All kinds of characters: A conman-turned-FBI informant. Fake criminal profilers and phony psychics. Unusually attractive CIA agents who can sprint in heels. And, now, a cavalier lawyer with slicked-back hair who can shell out thousands of dollars a month as a member of a car sharing club.  

In the network's new series, "Suits," which airs Thursday nights, Gabriel Macht plays Harvey Specter, the said narcissist who works as a top corporate lawyer at one of Manhattan's most prestigious firms and recruits and mentors a college dropout/legal prodigy. He has the kind of swagger that can bully a witness and/or charm any female with a pulse.

Showtracker nabbed a few minutes on the phone with Macht to discuss the show as he made his way to the Toronto set. Yes,  we said Toronto. Read on...

The series is set in  NYC, but the show is shot in Canada. Were you bummed that you wouldn’t be shooting in New York?

Honestly, yeah, I was really bummed about that. That was the one thing that I was not happy with, and I continue to be bummed about it. I really feel that New York City is the greatest city in the world. And it’s a character in this show, and we should be there. We’re running out of streets in Toronto! I always thought this show should be there and it should never leave.

Maybe one day they’ll move production.

I hope so.

Let’s talk about your character. How would  you describe Harvey Specter, and was there anyone you tried to model the character after?

Aaron Korsh [the show's creator] comes up with this idea of writing about this relationship between these two guys. From my conversations with him, he based Harvey Spector on a fellow that was his boss when he was working in Wall Street many years ago. The whole story was supposed to take place on Wall Street. Then they decided it would be difficult to have a weekly series dealing with that world so they made it a law firm.

But, you know, when I read the pilot, I saw [Harvey] as this real, hard-lined, top corporate attornery who meant business. He’s the smartest guy in the room who thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room. He’s tough, but fair. I think his moral code is really strict. Underneath the armor—which could be his suit, his presentation, or the way he acts—he’s got a heart and he’s very sensitive. With that, he loves life. He loves fast cars. He loves beautiful women. He loves great food. And he loves the game of winning. And I think when Mike comes around, he sees a younger him in many ways. He likes Mike’s street smarts—he takes risks, he’s got balls. There’s something about that quality that he admires.

Continue reading »

USA adds to scripted series with 'Common Law'

Ealy_re

Because there can never be too many cop shows, USA network announced Wednesday its given a series order for “Common Law.”

The show centers on Travis Marks, played by Michael Ealy (“The Good Wife,” “Californication”), and Wes Mitchell, played by Warren Kole (“The Chicago Code,” “24”); they're two cops who can’t stand each other. To salvage their professional relationship, the two attend couples therapy. 

Production on 11 episodes of the buddy cop series begins next month in New Orleans.

The series joins USA’s growing slate of original series, which includes “Burn Notice,” “Covert Affairs,” “White Collar” and most recently "Suits” and “Necessary Roughness.”

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-- Yvonne Villarreal
Twitter.com/villarrealy

Photo: Actor Michael Ealy on June 18. Ealy will star in the new series "Common Law." Credit: Jason Merritt / Getty Images

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