USA Network has picked up to series its drama pilot Dare Me, from Universal Cable Prods. in association with Petter Berg and Michael Lombardo’s Film 44. Key to the project securing a series order by USA was Netflix coming on board for a co-licensing deal — called “co-producing” by USA — with the Internet network taking first-run rights to the series outside of the U.S.
Dare Me, starring Willa Fitzgerald, Herizen Guardiola and Marlo Kelly, was one of four pilots ordered by USA in April. Of the other three, Bourne offshoot Treadstone saw its order upped to straight-to-series last summer when another streamer, Amazon, signed on as international distributor, and Briarpatch was picked up to series last week. The fourth, Erase, starring Denis Leary, is not going forward.
Based on the novel by Megan Abbott, who serves as writer and executive producer along with Gina Fattore, Dare Me is described as an unflinching exploration of teen angst, jealousy, loyalty and the dynamics of power in a small Midwestern town. Berg and Lombardo of Film 44, Sarah Condon and Karen Rosenfelt executive produce.
The pickup ends a long journey to the screen for Abbott’s 2002 novel Dare Me. It was originally set up as a feature at Fox 2000 six years ago with Abbott writing, Michael Sucsy directing, Rosenfelt producing and Natalie Portman rumored to star.
UCP was one of the first Hollywood studios to embrace Netflix’s co-licensing model which has the Internet network coming in as a partner early in the process, with its international distribution fee helping a number of series land series orders. Among the UCP series that have had Netflix deals are Shooter, Damnation, The Sinner, Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. on USA; and Nightflyers on Syfy.
Peering behind the all-American facade, Dare Me dives into the cutthroat world of competitive high school cheerleading. It follows the fraught relationship between two best friends (Guardiola and Kelly) after a new coach (Fitzgerald) arrives to bring their team to prominence. While the girls’ friendship is put to the test, their young lives are changed forever when a shocking crime rocks their quiet suburban world. Part coming-of-age story, part small-town drama, part murder mystery, Dare Me exposes the physical and psychological extremes that some young women are willing to endure in order to get ahead.
The series co-stars Rob Heaps, Zach Roerig and Paul Fitzgerald. Steph Green directed and executive produced the pilot.
“Megan Abbott’s voice brings a fresh perspective to USA Network, with a gripping, female-focused story that combines the ultra-competitive world of high school cheerleading with the secrets of a seemingly-perfect small American town,” said Chris McCumber, President, USA Network and SyFy.
Dare Me was the first pilot order and now marks the first series for Berg and former HBO president of programming Lombardo since they partnered at Film 44 last year.
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