USA Network is branching out into comedy, and a Chicago-based show about self-destructive EMTs could shape up to be a key part of the cable network's plans.
"One-hour drama has been our bread and butter, but we are creating more storytelling options for our audience," network co-president Chris McCumber told TV critics. "USA is diving into comedy and reality in a big way in 2013."
A while back, the basic cable net acquired syndication rights for ABC's "Modern Family." It's looking for original comedic content to pair with that blockbuster sitcom when it starts airing in the fall.
"To take advantage of this extraordinary launch pad, we are looking at a couple of comedy pilots right now," USA co-president Jeff Wachtel said.
One of those is "Sirens," from executive producers and co-writers Denis Leary ("Rescue Me") and Bob Fisher ("Wedding Crashers").
"Leary's comic genius comes to life through a diverse group of EMTs whose response to emergencies, let's say, often ends in utter chaos," McCumber said.
"Sirens" stars Michael Mosley ("30 Rock," "Pan Am") as Johnny, a good-looking, sports-loving, Chicago EMT who works with his best friend Hank, played by Kevin Daniels ("Modern Family").
Jessica McNamee ("The Vow") stars as Theresa, a female cop still in love with her commitment-phobe ex, Johnny.
Kevin Bigley ("Game Change") is an excitable rookie EMT who still lives with his parents.
"It's this incredible combination of wit, humor and edginess and also this wonderful soul," Wachtel said about "Sirens," based on a British show by the same name.
Why set it in Chicago?
"It just felt right," Wachtel said. "Dennis loves it there. We didn't want to do New York. He'd done that with 'Rescue Me.' But there's no question that it's an urban show, so we thought that was a good place."
USA also has ordered the pilot "Paging Dr. Freed," a comedy about two brothers who take over the family medical practice under the scrutiny of their mother, played by Annie Potts ("GCB," "Designing Women").
"Right now we're trying to figure out which shows can work with, but not seem exactly like, 'Modern Family,'" Wachtel said. "We've shot two, 'Dr. Freed' and 'Sirens.' We'll probably shoot a couple more and hopefully by the end of 2013 ... we'll have picked them up and put them on the schedule."