USA Showcases New Series 'Political Animals,' 'Choir' at Biggest Cable Upfront Event Yet | Adweek
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USA Gets Positive

Standing room only at Tully Hall for previews of new shows on #1 cable network

James Roday, Maggie Lawson, Timothy Omundson, Kirsten Nelson, Dule Hill of USA's "Psych" Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images

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USA bats cleanup during upfront week, and while it's not necessarily the most desirable position in the lineup, the top-tier network makes the most of it. "This event will remain executive-free!" announced Suits star Patrick J. Adams.

The network's new Sigourney Weaver/Ciaran Hinds drama Political Animals got the biggest reaction from the standing-room-only crowd at Lincoln Center's Tully Hall. The series stars the pair as a political couple with problems suspiciously similar to those of the Clinton family. The promo was structured like a campaign interview showcasing Weaver's acting and widely-praised Irish stage actor Hinds' perfect good-ol'-boy accent, which can only be described as "Texish." Also of note: USA joins Turner in adding unscripted programming to its slate. While its competitor is playing it more or less safe with Boston Blue on TNT (a network with a few police procedurals on it already), USA is going the uplifting route with new show The Choir, about a choir director who "united and transforms unsuspecting communities with music." The network also has an untitled series in the works from Top Chef and Bravo-era Project Runway producers Magical Elves.

The other news likely to change up the cable game was that the network will be running Raw for three hours on Monday, effectively ceding its entire primetime to the professional wrestling program. John Cena came out to make the announcement—perhaps the most natural and comfortable of the teleprompted thesps.

Except for Bruce Campbell.

True to form, the presentation was a talent-only affair, and Campbell, who stars in Burn Notice, endured  a certain amount of heckling from the audience (which is more or less a USA tradition at this point) and then took the stage mostly to talk to Weaver ("Sigourney, you're new to USA, so you won't realize how badly you're being screwed for a couple of years. Or maybe you know now, maybe you've got good people, I don't know.") and to inform ad buyers that he knew they were drunk. He left the stage to wild applause and a cue for Erykah Badu, who opened a brief jazzy set with "Fever."

In the lobby near the bar, network co-president Jeff Wachtel (with a lot of prodding from colleagues) eventually reavealed that he and Weaver go way back. "I directed her in 'A Delicate Balance,' which is a play by Edward Albee, when I was in college," he said. "She broke the rules! She wasn't supposed to do an undergrad production, but she liked my production of 'The Homecoming' (a play by Harold Pinter)." This, by the way, puts Wachtel in the loose crew of Ivy Leaguers that includes Weaver, playwright Christopher Durang and Meryl Streep, better known during the 80's and 90's as the Yale Mafia. Who knew?

"She starred with another actress who was also about six feet tall," Wachtel recalled. "They were like the Twin Towers."