The Biz Behind THE 4400

USA Network has ordered a TV series based on the hit USA miniseries THE 4400. But it’s not as simple as it sounds. Behind that series order is an interesting business story, as reported at, of deal-making and awkward timing.

“The 4400” was caught in a business vortex not of its own making. Its studio, Viacom Productions, has been folded into Paramount Network Productions; and its broadcast outlet, USA Network, was involved in the recent merger between Universal and NBC.

There was, according to other press reports, protracted haggling between NBC, its broadcast partners USA and SciFi, and supplier Paramount. NBC reportedly wanted to retain some rebroadcast rights (ala MONK on ABC & USA, “Law and Order” on NBC and USA, etc.). There was even some question about which NBC/Universal network the series version of THE 4400 would actually air on.

Once that was all ironed out, more problems remained.

When “The 4400” finished its run, none of the producers or actors was retained on contract. The executive producer and show runner, Ira Steven Behr, has since gone on to CBS’ “dr. vegas,” while his predecessor, Rene Echevarria, is now working on NBC’s midseason drama “Medium.”

DR VEGAS isn’t exactly wowing audiences, and the rumor is the show is destined for cancellation. The folks behind THE 4400 are well aware of that… and have been hinting that showrunner Ira Behr may soon be free.

“Maira and I are going to talk about the possibility of having him come over,” says co-executive producer Scott Peters, “because we’re not going to be up and running until March in terms of shooting. This means we have to start writing earlier than that, but not tomorrow.”

Meaning, they can wait for DR. VEGAS to tank. The big hurdle now is getting the cast back for the series…

As the production team reassembles, a bigger challenge may be reassembling the large cast for the drama, in which 4,400 people returned mysteriously in a ball of light. Some had been missing a short time, some for decades. All hadn’t aged and didn’t remember where they had been. Some returned with extraordinary or even dangerous abilities.

The cast included Joel Gretsch (“Taken”) and Jacqueline McKenzie as federal agents dealing with the returnees, with Peter Coyote as their boss. Among those playing returnees were Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Laura Allen, Patrick Flueger and Michael Moriarty. Mark Valley (“Keen Eddie”), currently a regular on ABC’s “Boston Legal,” joined midway through the run, as did Billy Campbell.

“We’re still negotiating with actors I want,” Peters says. “I want everybody back, because there’s a winning combination. Right now, Joel and Jackie are definitely coming back, which is good, because it would be an awfully difficult show to do without them. It would be hard to do it without any of them, as a matter of fact, because they’re all integral to the success of the show. We have to get Billy Campbell back. He’s tied up at the moment, but we’re going to try to figure out a way to get him back.

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