The USA Network
is a cable channel owned by NBC
Universal (initially it was owned together by Universal and Paramount, but Paramount sold their stake in 1997). Initially debuting as the Madison Square Garden Network from 1977 to 1980 (no, not the one that shows the Knicks and Rangers
, although they were staples of the network's early years). Over the years, it has shown a variety of series and events, most notably WWE Raw
, Burn Notice
, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and U.S. Open tennis.
Back in the 80s and early 90's, it was essentially a cable version of a nationally distributed superstation like WGN or TBS back in the day. It showed movies, sitcoms, sports, dramas, cartoons, game shows, court shows, and even small news updates like on the major networks, called USA Updates; these were produced from Philadelphia TV station KYW from as early as 1989 to 1991; after that, All-News Channel, operated by Minnesota-based Hubbard Broadcasting and Viacom, produced the updates, until 2000.
They started changing in the mid-90s, dropping the court and game shows and starting to focus more on original productions and off-network reruns, with the slick, CGI-heavy look and 1979 logo dropped in favor of a new, "star" logo, and a look based off a behind-the-scenes look at the fictional "USA Studios". This was replaced in 1999 with a new "flag" logo and flat CGI graphics (they had dropped the cartoons and news updates by this point); that lasted until 2005, when the current logo and look was adopted.
Also of note, when millionaire Barry Diller bought Universal's television division in 1998, he re-branded it Studios USA
, which continued making the Universal shows for networks, cable and syndication; when Universal bought USA back in 2001 it was renamed back to Universal TV; there were also film and home entertainment divisions (the former created by merging October Films and Gramercy Pictures after he acquired them along with USA, and has since become Focus Features, the latter absorbed into Universal's video division)
One of USA's notable characteristics
from the early 2000s onward has been their programming choices and their focus on unique characters, which gave the network the tag line USA: Characters Welcome
. They like to make new shows, with unique premises, starring talented but largely unrecognized C- or D-list actors, but with an optimistic edge to their characters who are usually Jerks with Hearts of Gold
and promoted by the network under a theme known as the "Blue Skies
" concept. This has worked out pretty well; how many Emmys did Monk
Often, they guest-star Hey, It's That Guy!
actors from cancelled shows on sister NBC Universal networks SyFy
Some other notable USA Network programs and blocks:
- Airwolf (1987 episodes) — The final season of this show was made for this channel, though it was known as the season with No Budget.
- "Back-to-Back-to-Back NCIS" (an eight-hour block of, well, guess what, every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday)
- Bumper Stumpers (1987-1990) — Canadian-produced game show from Dan Enright and Wink Martindale. Hosted by Al Dubois, and aired in Canada on Global TV.
- Calliope, a response to Nickelodeon's Pinwheel
- Campus Cops, a mid-1990s sitcom
- Commander USA's Groovie Movies (1985-1989) — Showcased horror and science fiction movies on Saturdays and Sundays.
- Common Law
- 'Covert Affairs
- Dance Party USA (1986-1992) — Philadelphia Dancing program. Originally a local series on WPHL-TV from 1981 to 1987 called Dancin' On Air.
- The Dead Zone
- Duckman (1994-1997) — Animated series from the creators of Rugrats.
- Fairly Legal
- The $40,000 Chain Reaction (1986-1991) — Canadian-produced revival hosted by Blake Emmons for a short while, and then by Geoff Edwards. Aired in Canada on Global TV.
- In Plain Sight
- Jackpot 1985 (1985-1988) — Canadian-produced revival hosted by Mike Darrow, and aired in Canada on Global TV.
- La Femme Nikita (1997-2001) — Canadian-produced program starring, Peta Wilson, based on the 1990 French film Nikita.
- Law & Order: Criminal Intent — in this case, actual new episodes instead of just reruns, until the series ended in 2011.
- Lots of reruns of various Law & Order shows (except for the original, to which TNT owns the rights)
- Modern Family
- Necessary Roughness
- Night Flight (1981-1988) — Introduced Super Sentai to the Continental United States with a Dynaman parody dub. Aired on Fridays and Saturdays late at night.
- Pacific Blue
- Political Animals (2012) — Critically-acclaimed political mini-series.
- Radio 1990, a music video show
- Royal Pains
- Sailor Moon reruns of the DiC dub until Cartoon Network picked it up
- Saved by the Bell: The New Class (1993-2000) — Was rerun from 1997 to 2001.
- Silk Stalkings (1993-1999 episodes) — After two seasons on CBS from 1991 to 1993, this crime drama jumped ship to USA Network for its next six seasons.
- Smush (2001) — Short-lived game show
- Strip Poker
- Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills (1994) — USA Network's attempt at producing a completely American take on Power Rangers, that didn't have footage recycled from a tokusatsu series.
- USA Cartoon Express, a block of classic and new cartoons which ran from the 1980s until 1996 when it was rebranded as Action Extreme Team. That block lasted until 1998 in favor of infomercials and more endless repeats of Wings, which defined the network's image in the mid-to-late 1990s. Originally showed Hanna-Barbera and Ruby-Spears cartoons that had little to no syndication demand (and weren't licensed by Ted Turner); Turner bought up the entire HB and RS libraries when forming Cartoon Network, leaving the Cartoon Express with a random assortment of pre-existing cartoons and lower-quality original cartoons until the Action Extreme Team rebranding.
- USA High (1997-1999) — Teen comedy from the creators of Saved by the Bell.
- USAM — A comedy block consisting of America's Funniest Home Videos (the Saget years), Wings and some of NBC's few 1990s "Must See TV" failures getting a second life as morning Filler.
- USA Saturday Nightmares, a horror-movie block that ran on Saturday nights in The Eighties and eventually merged with USA Up All Night
- USA Tuesday Night Fights (1982-1998) — Boxing program hosted by Al Albert and Sean O'Grady
- USA Up All Night (1989-1998) — A late-night interstitial program showcasing edited versions of cheesy B-Movies that typically ran on Friday and Saturday nights from 1989 to 1998. One of the network's most beloved originals by longtime viewers, though your mileage may vary. Gilbert Gottfried hosted on Saturdays from the beginning of the run in January 1989 to the end in March 1998, Caroline Schlitt hosted on Fridays from June 1989 to December 1990, and Rhonda Shear replaced her on that edition from January 1991 to March 1998.
- The War Next Door
- Weird Science: The Series (1994-1997) — Based on the 1985 film of the same name.
- White Collar
- Wings (we know...)
Also, USA Network tends to have a weekend marathon almost every weekend, picking one show from its popular lineup, which means (at the moment) all of its current original series (with the exception of Fairly Legal
, which doesn't have enough episodes quite yet), plus NCIS
common) and Law & Order: SVU