By Jack Rico
Located in the newly renovated and distinguished Rainbow Room at the top floor of NBC’s 30 Rock, the cable channel USA presented its new slate of TV shows to the press. The key highlights are new scripted projects by some big names such as Charlize Theron, Rob Reiner, Barry Sonnenfeld and Catherine Hardwicke, an untitled project from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, more WWE content and a previously mentioned action series produced by Mark Wahlberg.
But perhaps the most interesting of all the shows presented was Mr. Robot starring Rami Malek and Christian Slater. The hacker drama is a perfect show concept for today and looks like it has the potential to be a hit or at least bring in a loyal fan base of millennial viewers. After the Sony hacking scandal last November, Hollywood releasing hacker/technophobia films in Michael Mann’s Blackhat and Laura Poitras CitizenFour documentary, it was about time TV set their eyes on the most relevant social and political trend of our time – technology, hackers and the 1%.
Mr. Robot received much acclaim at SXSW this year and it looks like that acclaim could spill and connect with today’s tech savvy viewers. The thriller follows Elliot (Rami Malek), a young programmer who works as a cyber-security engineer by day and a vigilante hacker by night. When the mysterious leader (Christian Slater) of an underground hacker group recruits him to destroy the firm he is paid to protect, he must make the decision of a lifetime. It’ll be airing Wednesday, June 24 at 10pm.
Reaching millennials is at the strategic core for the USA network. Chris McCumber, President of the USA Network opened his presentation attesting to just that. “We’ve just gone through a massive change in demographics. Two thirds of the 18-49 audience is made up of millennials. We’re targeting people that have a millennial mindset. They are unified by a set of values: confidence, perseverance, self-reliance, optimism, bravery. We want to find those unexpected heroes who bravely go up against the odds and come out the other side in its own unique way.”
Below is a look at the slate of shows you can expect coming to your living room this summer and next year:
USA is expanding its commitment to the live action entertainment company WWE, bringing SmackDown to the network in the first quarter of 2016. Now the exclusive cable home to WWE marquee properties, USA airs the powerhouse Monday Night Raw live 52 weeks a year and the reality competition series WWE Tough Enough, which returns this summer in a reimagined format with live elements.
THE ROCK UNTITLED PROJECT (Alternative Development)
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (WWE, “Furious 7”) and Dany Garcia sign on to develop and executive produce an unscripted television series for USA Network. The project is from Garcia and Johnson’s 7 Bucks Productions.
When a neurotic family man buys an online “smart pill” to increase his focus and jolt him out of his slump, he gets much more than he bargained for. To his surprise, the pill gives him incredible strength and power. The project examines both the mighty highs and humiliating lows of being a real-life super hero. AMPED is based on the characters created for an upcoming comic book by Eric Kripke (“Supernatural,” “Revolution”) for DC Entertainment’s Vertigo imprint. Kripke will serve as executive producer/writer of AMPED, from Kripke Enterprises in association with Warner Horizon Television.
MYTHOS is a serialized adventure in which everything we believe to be myth turns out to be a guarded truth that has been concealed by members of two opposing groups — each with differing agendas for the fate of humanity. Caught in the middle is Nate Brigman, an ordinary man thrust into an extraordinary situation by the mysterious disappearance of his wife. This high stakes drama from Universal Cable Productions, is written by Spenser Cohen (“Macklemore’s Big Surprise”) and executive produced by Charlize Theron (“Monster”) and Laverne McKinnon (“CSI: Miami,”) from Denver & Delilah Productions, along with Anna Halberg (“Inner Demons”).
Matt Nix, the brilliant creator of USA’s “Burn Notice,” returns to the network this summer as the creator and executive producer of COMPLICATIONS, an unpredictable thriller starring Jason O’Mara (“Terra Nova”) and Jessica Szohr (“Gossip Girl”) about a suburban doctor who, while still dealing with the emotional effects of his daughter’s death, intervenes in a drive-by shooting, saving a young boy’s life.. The series premieres with a two-hour event, featuring new back-to-back one-hour episodes on Thursday, June 18 at 9/8c.
A serialized workplace drama set in the high stakes world of international architecture and design, STARCHITECTS follows the embattled rise of a talented young architect taking on the cutthroat competition at a top tier firm based in Los Angeles. The project is from writer and executive producer Mark Steilen (“Mozart in the Jungle”) and executive producer Christina Wayne (“Copper”) and co-executive producer Miura Kite (“Game Change”). Catherine Hardwicke (“Twilight”) is attached to direct and also executive produces. STARCHITECTS is from Endemol Shine Studios and Universal Cable Productions.
Based on Karen Russell’s best-selling novel and Pulitzer Prize finalist, SWAMPLANDIA! is an offbeat family drama that centers on the Bigtrees, owners of Florida’s top alligator-wrestling theme park. The family is reeling from a recent tragedy and is struggling to maintain its livelihood when a competitor moves in across the swamp. Liz Tigelaar (“Life Unexpected”) is adapting the novel and executive producing the project. Barry Sonnenfeld (“Men in Black” franchise) will also executive produce and is attached to direct. Russell will serve as executive consultant. SWAMPLANDIA! hails from Tigelaar’s Best Day Ever, in association with Warner Horizon Television.
THE TAP takes place at Yale University in 1969 and explores the height of America’s cultural and political revolutions as one of its students, Jay Butler, is simultaneously recruited into the country’s two most secretive and powerful organizations, the CIA and Skull and Bones. THE TAP is written and executive produced by Andrew Lenchewski (ROYAL PAINS) and Aaron Tracy (“Law & Order: SVU”). Rob Reiner (“When Harry Met Sally”), Alan Greisman (“The Bucket List”) and Charlie Ebersol (“The Profit”) will also executive produce, with Reiner attached to direct. This historical spy thriller is from Universal Cable Productions.
PARADISE PICTURES is about ambitious people striving to get to the top in 1940s Hollywood, when the dream factory was at its peak. Little do they know the challenges they’re about to face: the end of studio monopolies, the blacklist and the new disruptive technology of television. From Universal Cable Productions, PARADISE PICTURES is written by Rick Muirragui (SUITS). Muirragui executive produces the project along with SUITS creator Aaron Korsh.
Written and executive produced by Carey and Shane Van Dyke (“Chernobyl Diaries”), AWOL deals with the gritty world of an ex-military operative who, after returning home, experiences trouble re-entering the real world and providing for his family. Desperate, he gets involved with the criminal underbelly of Los Angeles where he utilizes his military expertise in an unexpected way. AWOL is executive produced by Len Wiseman (“Sleepy Hollow,” “Total Recall”), Mike Connolly (“Hemlock Grove”) and Andrew Plotkin (“Related”). Wiseman is also attached to direct. The project comes from Fox 21 Television Studios.
COOLEY & THE TANK
An homage to the decade that ushered in modern television, COOLEY & THE TANK goes behind-the-scenes of the fictional 1981 detective drama of the same name to explore the complicated lives of its two feuding stars. Daniel Arkin (SUITS, “Alias”) is writing the pilot script with Anton Cropper (SUITS). Arkin and Cropper will executive produce with Rain Management’s Jonathan Baruch and Rob Wolken. Cropper is also attached to direct. The project is from Universal Cable Productions.
Two best friends, a Wall Street broker and a struggling entrepreneur, team up to capitalize on the newly legalized cannabis enterprise in Colorado. The series follows the young duo as they enter into this highly lucrative growth industry, but their new venture is not without its obstacles such as dangerous criminals and stringent law enforcement. From writer and executive producer Josh Parkinson (“Eastbound & Down”) and executive producers Lorenzo di Bonaventura (“Transformers” franchise) and Dan McDermott (“Zero Hour,” “Human Target”), MILE HIGH is from Legendary Television and Universal Cable Productions.
THE RECESSIONISTAS (Limited Series)
Based on the book by Wall Street executive Alexandra Lebenthal, RECESSIONISTAS is an ensemble drama that follows a group of elite Manhattan women and their ruthless Wall Street husbands as they adjust to the new world order in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse. From Universal Cable Productions and writer/co-executive producer Melissa London Hilfers and executive producers Alan Gasmer (“Vikings”) and Peter Jaysen, RECESSIONISTAS is being developed as a limited series.