USA Goes on Sitcom Buying Spree

Kelsey Grammer among those producing for comedy-light network

The news earlier today that NBCUniversal's USA Network was in the process of developing a half-hour comedy, which will be executive produced by Frasier star Kelsey Grammer, is only part of the network's first-time-in-a-decade strategic push into the sitcom world.

The new half-hour show, set to be called The Dicocco Brothers, will be written by Edwin Cannistraci and produced by Grammer’s production company, Grammnet—which was previously housed at Paramount. The show will be based on a story by Cannistraci and his brother Chris about the founder of a Web startup who uproots his family from New Jersey to Silicon Valley.

Development of The Dicocco Brothers marks an interest at USA in developing original half-hour comedies for the first time since the turn of the millenium. According to the network's scripted programming chief Bill McGoldrick, in the last six months or so USA has gone on something of a comedy buying spree, purchasing upwards of eight scripted comedy series in that period. "We're doing really, really well in our one-hour world, and we thought it was a good time to diversify," McGoldrick said. "This was part of an overall strategic thing we decided on. We’re constantly looking for ways to evolve and not just repeat ourselves."

Prior to this latest buying spree, McGoldrick says that the network hadn't bought a comedy since Manhattan, AZ and War Next Door aired in the early 2000s. Instead, the network has carved out a niche for itself as a home of the light drama, with shows like Psych and Burn Notice helping propel the channel to the No. 1 cable television spot. 

But McGoldrick says that the recent acquisitions are the product of five or six years of discussion, in which network executives "have been asking [ourselves] 'when is the right time to start developing comedy?'"

The Diccoco Brothers is in such early stages that the network has not yet decided what it will be pairing the show with, but executives are open to a number of options—including putting it behind Psych. McGoldrick acknowledges that there are risks to a cable network that has built a successful identity around drama branching back off into other genres. But, he says, "we're getting to know the [comedy] genre. We want to develop our own unique brand of comedy . . . we don't know what that is, but we're buying the most original writers that are out there."