Like AMC, reigning cable champ USA Network is best known for its impressively consistent scripted series but has been investing in reality shows because unscripted fare is a cheaper way to fill out a schedule with original programming.
Today, the network announced that it was giving a series order to one unscripted project, a pilot order for another and moving a third into development.
"Partners in Crime" is the show getting the series greenlight, a "docu-soap" from Peacock Productions ("True Crime with Aphrodite Jones") about two colorful criminal defense attorneys — partners and best friends Mario Gallucci and Big Lou Gelormino. The pair are known for taking on infamous cases and bickering constantly, while always making time for family dinner on Sunday nights.
Studio Lambert's "All In," which is getting a pilot order, is about highly successful handicapper Brandon Lang, who will pay a visit to an unsuspecting family with a suitcase of cash and offer to take them off on a gambling spree in which he'll advise, with real money at stake.
And Raw TV's "The Cowboy Way," now in development, is about men and women working on a Texas cattle ranch battling terrible droughts and wildfires that have forced ranchers to sell off herds in unpresidented numbers as they fight to keep their way of life alive.
USA also has unscripted series "The Moment" and "The Choir" in development, with another one, "Bride of Best Man," starting production on a pilot next month.
"Our approach to reality storytelling is to showcase a broad spectrum of life's real characters," said Heather Olander, the network's SVP of alternative programming, in the announcement. Which, fair enough. Bickering lawyers? Genius gamblers? The question is really whether USA found real people who are weirdly fit their quirky character formula, or whether these folks have seen enough of "Suits," "Psych," "Royal Pains" and "White Collar" to become like them. This move into unscripted programming is a new one for USA, whose current non-fiction slate is all WWE.