The USA Network is well-known for its slick, polished dramas that are infused with humor or a light-hearted tone. In an effort to draw in new viewers, the channel has decided to aggressively court Millennials. This means adding new dramas with a more serious, darker tone to the schedule alongside hits like “Suits” and “Royal Pains.” Here’s a look at what’s in store for the “new USA.”
What Do Millennials Want?
Millennials came after the Gen-Xers, and the network classifies them as viewers now in their 30’s.
“We’re focusing on an audience that has a shared set of values: Hope, optimism, self-reliance, perseverance, courage,” USA’s president, Chris McCumber, said about this desired demographic.
The new shows focus on “unexpected heroes” in what are often extreme circumstances, like the grieving cop who saves the world from an apocalypse in the channel’s recent event series, “Dig.”
The network is trying to set a new tone, adding shows that require deep thinking. While McCumber noted the hopefulness of Millennials, that’s been interpreted as hope in the face of a pretty grim world. The unlikely heroes in USA’s new series face some big, scary, shadowy foes. In an effort to portray that darker mood on the network, USA incorporated some creepy, almost subliminal advertising for its “hacker taking down The System” drama, “Mr. Robot.”
What Do These New Heroes Look Like?
You may know Jason O’Mara from the short-lived series “Life On Mars” and “Vegas,” from his guest stint on “The Good Wife,” or as that creepy killer taunting “Just plain Brenda” on “The Closer.” The talented chameleon of an actor portrays an ER doctor with a tenuous grip on his sanity for his new USA show, “Complications.” This gritty drama pits an ordinary man against a violent gang out to kill his young patient.
Watch the trailer for this show, and see how this doc deals with something more immediately deadly than bureaucratic red tape. The show premieres on USA on June 18.
Our next unlikely hero comes courtesy of Josh Holloway, that sexy rogue Sawyer on “Lost,” and the guy with the computer chip in his brain in the lamentably short-lived “Intelligence.” His new series, “Colony,” is written and produced by “Lost” showrunner Carlton Cuse. Holloway plays a family man trying to navigate an alien-occupied Los Angeles, where some go along with the new world order, and some rebel.
With Sarah Wayne Callies, a veteran of post-apocalyptic series “The Walking Dead,” playing Holloway’s wife, we’ll definitely be watching a family who rebels. This sounds a bit like “V” for Millennials at first, but Cuse says the show will focus more on the occupation than on little green men or lizard people. Watch the clip below where he compares the storyline to France’s occupation during WWII.
More Unusual Heroes on USA
The network also ordered more pilots for its new direction. They plan an American reboot of their sister station Telemundo’s hit telenovela “La Reina Del Sur.” Based on the book by Arturo Perez-Reverte, the USA series “Queen of the South” follows character Teresa Mendoza, who unexpectedly has the chance to be a head of a cartel when her drug-dealer boyfriend dies. Alice Braga (“I Am Legend”) stars as a woman determined to survive, and even thrive, in her new environment.
Connecting the new regime and the old, USA has ordered a pilot from the “Suits” writer/producer team of Rick Muirragui and Aaron Korsh. “Paradise Pictures” focuses on ambitious people trying to make it in Hollywood in the ’40s. The already difficult task of succeeding in the entertainment capital includes the hurdles of the blacklist and the threat of television. If it’s anything like the writers’ dashing legal drama, we’ll get plenty of great costuming to go with the snappy dialogue and suspenseful drama.
Mark Wahlberg, who already had great TV success producing HBO’s “Entourage,” brings “Shooter” to USA. Based on the film of the same name, the new series centers on a self-exiled Marine sniper who gets framed for an assassination attempt on the president. The script is currently going through some retooling to fit its new home, as a likely replacement for “Burn Notice.”
Is It Right to Rebrand?
Many networks operate on the idea, “Don’t fix what isn’t broken.” This is why TV franchises are born. “Law & Order” and “CSI” spin-offs make big money by sticking with a winner. Because USA has found success with their “popcorn” style of drama, rebranding seems risky. From the looks of their upcoming projects, however, they haven’t strayed too far from their core style.
“If you’re not experimenting and innovating you’re going to ultimately die,” president McCumber said about the network’s mission.
Branching out into a different style of programming isn’t a bad idea when viewers have so many options to draw them away from your channel. USA doesn’t appear to be abandoning the style of shows that put it on the map, and are working again with creators that already brought them success.
Dystopian and apocalyptic themes might wear on viewers eventually, but the network can shift accordingly. Hero dramas don’t really ever go out of style, and whether it’s noble doctors or resistance leaders, USA has a good shot at continued success.