Image from 'In Plain Sight' pilot episode

The USA Network has renewed its new crime drama series In Plain Sight after the show’s first run of twelve episodes this summer. Although the writers and performers had some difficulties establishing the lead character as someone viewers would want to watch week after week, they resolved the problems after the first couple of episodes, and the program earned good enough ratings to merit renewal.

USA also announced that a new series based on the network’s 2007 comedy-drama mini-series The Starter Wife, starring Debra Messing, will premiere this October 10.

In addition, the cable channel announced three new drama series have been approved for production.

Covert Affairs is about a CIA linguist partnered with an ex-boyfriend, Operating Instructions (executive produced by NBC talk host Conan O’Brien) follows an inner-city surgeon after returning  home from Iraq, and Stiffs is about a single father who transports bodies for a morgue and solves homicides with his medical-examiner brother.

Although all three of the new pilots sound either overly arch or as if they are trying too hard for significance, the USA Network has a good track record of creating shows that somehow manage to work as good series television—programs that entertain and enlighten without pretending to great profundity. The continuing success of the USA Network in producing drama series that consistently have writing and performances on a par with programs on the broadcast networks shows the continuing breakup of the networks’ hegemony over TV viewing habits.

With cable networks continuing to strengthen their slate of weekly dramas, they are breaking into the broadcast giants’ last bastion of superiority. Thus television is undergoing the same process as the rest of the communications industry, as old giants fall and are replaced by leaner, more agile providers who are more responsive to consumers’ wishes.