Three years after USA Network signaled a move into half-hour comedy with the off-network acquisition of Modern Family and three months before the ABC comedy is to launch on the cable network, USA has greenlighted its first original half-hour comedies in some 15 years: the single-camera Sirens from Denis Leary and Bob Fisher and Playing House, from Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham. Additionally, USA, which is holding its upfront today, has picked up single-camera half-hour comedy pilot Love Is Dead, from writer Zev Borow. USA’s other half-hour pilot, Paging Dr. Freed, is still alive. And USA is in conversations about picking up ABC comedy series Happy Endings.
Sirens and Playing House will premiere in the first quarter of 2014 as companions to Modern Family, which is set to bow on USA on September 24. “With Modern Family joining our lineup in the fall, we can leverage television’s most popular comedy to serve as a powerful launch pad for new originals in this genre,” said USA’s co-president Chris McCumber. Added co-president Jeff Wachtel, “Our new series come from some of the best comedic talent in the business, and reflect USA’s style — with great characters, strong execution and compelling storytelling.” USA ran several half-hour comedies under the network’s old regime in the 1990s, including Weird Science, USA High and Campus Cops, before USA rebuilt its brand as a home of light, character-driven hourlong series over the past decade.
It has been a long journey for Fox TV Studios-produced Sirens, which was picked up to pilot a year and a half ago. After six months of deal-making between USA and the studio, the project, based on a UK format, was officially greenlighted for production last July. Sirens follows three of Chicago’s best EMTs whose sometimes silly, self-righteous and even self-destructive personalities make them unqualified for sustaining relationships, friendships and most occupations. They are, however, uniquely qualified for saving anyone who winds up in their ambulance. Michael Mosley, Kevin Daniels, Jessica McNamee and Kevin Bigley star in the series, whose pilot was written by Leary and Fisher. The two exec produce the series with Jim Serpico of Apostle, and Hal Vogel, David Aukin and David Leach of Daybreak Pictures.
Inspired by the ultra-close friendship between St. Clair and Parham, Playing House centers on mother to-be Maggie (Parham) who asks her single and career-driven best friend Emma (St. Clair) to return home from her job overseas to attend her baby shower, having no idea what’s truly in store. Parham and St. Clair co-wrote the presentation, a follow-up to their NBC comedy series Best Friends Forever, and will executive produce along with Scot Armstrong and Ravi Nandan of American Work though Universal Cable Prods.
Love Is Dead, from UCP and Gaumont International Television, is based on the award-winning French short film of the same name, written and directed by Eric Capitaine and produced by Carole Lambert and Carine Ruszniewski of De Films Aiguille. It is set at a unique company that specializes in breaking up romantic relationships — rationally, compassionately, thoroughly — on behalf of those who are willing to pay to not be around when it happens. Katie O’Connell, Elisa Roth, Sidonie Dumas and Christophe Riandee executive produce for Gaumont.