Daniel Sunjata as Paul Briggs in 'Graceland,' a USA series about undercover cops.
TV Upfront

USA Moves Toward Darker Skies With New Development Slate

Series in Development Are Set on Middle Eastern Compound, Boomtown in North Dakota and Midwest Farm

By Published on .

USA Network has announced a new development slate that steps away from its tradition of blue-sky dramas.

Its dramas in development are set not on the beaches of Hamptons or Miami, but take place on a Middle Eastern compound, boomtown in North Dakota and Midwest farm, with plots about Christian faith, a computer programmer and aliens.

The shift comes as other basic cable networks like FX, History and AMC find success and buzz from darker and grittier fare like "The Walking Dead" and "Sons of Anarchy." USA won't go as dark as those shows, but is clearly changing the mix.

"This slate represents the next generation of originals at USA, with a focus on dramas that are more serialized, provocative and culturally resonant," said Chris McCumber, President of USA Network, in an email. "We're very much committed to partnering with some of the most talented creatives in the business to offer a broad mix of compelling programming for our viewers."

USA continues to rank as the No. 1 entertainment cable network, averaging 2.3 million viewers in prime time, but TBS is closing the gap, and for the first time last year surpassed it as the most-watched cable network among adults 18-to-49.

The NBC Universal-owned cable channel started edging in a less "blue sky" direction with the legal show "Suits" in 2011 and more so with undercover-cop series "Graceland" last year. This summer, the network will add series like "Rush," about a renegade doctor and his not-so-clean Los Angeles clientele, and "Satisfaction," a drama that examines marriage at its mid-point.

This fall it will introduce "Dig," a "Da Vinci Code"-like adventure series show in Jerusalem from the executive producers of "Homeland."

And now its latest development slate goes further.

USA has picked up the pilot for "Stanistan," contingent on getting casting the network likes, which follows the staff at the American compound in a fictional Middle Eastern country where State Department workers, CIA officers and journalists operate.

'Rush,' about a renegade doctor.
'Rush,' about a renegade doctor.

Also in the works: "Boom," about a young couple that moves to a contemporary boomtown in North Dakota in pursuit of the American dream; "Brand," about a born-again former addict who becomes obsessed with reaching the unsaved; "Colony," about 2015 Los Angeles under alien occupation; "Control," which explores the world of air-traffic control in one of America's busiest airports; "Mr. Robot," about a young programmer who suffers from a debilitating anti-social disorder; and "The Farm," in which a father on one of the last great family-owned farms in the Midwest must save his loved ones from a long-buried evil.

USA has two limited series in development: "Border Lord," an origin story of the Mexican drug cartels, and "The Swap," about a couple who swaps homes for a dream vacation that turns into a nightmare.

The network also followed up on its first foray into the comedy genre at its upfront last year, when USA used its acquisition of "Modern Family" as a launchpad for comedies that included "Sirens" and "Playing House."

Comedies in development now include "Difficult People," which touts Amy Poehler as an executive producer, about best friends living in New York City and hating everyone except each other; "Love the One You're With," a love story about a free-spirited woman who falls in love with a Type A man 14 years her junior; "Moguls," which follows employees of a popular Colorado ski resort; "Royal," a family comedy about a recently defected Hells Angel who moved to the suburbs to care for his deceased sister's children; and "Majordomo," about a friendship that's put to the test when one becomes the other's assistant.

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