USA, which is still hanging on to the title of highest-rated cable network, just announced that they have seven new original series in development, each with its own singular bent … sort of. “These new projects … [offer] viewers the kind of exceptionally written, aspirational originals they won’t find anywhere else,” Jeff Wachtel, president of original programming, said in a press release. Emphasis here on “aspirational,” it seems, since after reading through the description of each program, one is struck by the weirdly consistent “the secret life of … whoever” vibe to each show. It’s as if the network decided, in the absence of Monk, they’d stop making shows about people who just do what they do, and start making shows about people who hate what they do and so do what they daydream about. Let’s investigate.
Here are the descriptions of the new shows, condensed from the press release:
• A Legal Mind: An unmotivated college-dropout stoner gets recruited to help a high-powered lawyer.
• Robyn: A young woman decides to become a Robin Hood of sorts, robbing from the rich and redistributing to the poor.
• Untitled Gay Walch Project: A suburban mom works off her vanished husband’s gambling debts by becoming a mob “fixer.”
• Stick: A bad-boy NHL player is suspended from his team, and starts helping people that the law can’t.
• A Steve Carell–produced project about a middle-class insurance investigator who finds high-stakes drama in the dullest jobs.
• The Velvet Hammer: A former Texas debutante returns home as a mom … and a hard-core FBI agent.
• One other untitled FBI project in which we can only assume the agents used to be car salesmen.
USA seems to be mixing the regular-person-gone-bad formulas of Showtime’s Weeds and AMC’s Breaking Bad, except with a more accessible “regular-person-gone-force-for-good” twist. (Well, except for the mob fixer, but we assume she finds some way to be lovable in a leg-breaky way.) By giving every Joe or Joanne Sixpack a new, more glamorous and thrilling career, are they betting that their audience is made up of really boring people who wish they could live more exciting lives? Are they implying that we know we shouldn’t be sitting around watching Psych and Royal Pains, even as we do just that? That’s a pretty gutsy demo to go for: TV for people who hate themselves for watching TV.