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USA Renews Monk

1/13/2006 2:58 AM Eastern

Pasadena, Calif. -- USA Network is obsessed with hit series Monk.

The network has renewed its hit drama/comedy series about an obsessive-compulsive detective for its fifth and sixth seasons, as well as securing back-end strip rights to all of the show’s episodes, according to USA president Bonnie Hammer.

The Tony Shalhoub-produced series will develop 16 episodes for each of the next two seasons, according to Hammer, who spoke during the network’s Television Critics Association Tour session here.

Hammer said the series has become a successful multiplatform franchise, ranking as one of the top shows downloaded in the NBC “iTunes Store.”

“We’ve also created two mini-episodes exclusively for the USA Web site [www.usanetwork.com], and Adrian Monk is a hero in the first of a series of mystery novels,” she added. “Monk has been a full-fledged enterprise, growing beyond television into multimedia platforms.”

Hoping to capitalize on Monk’s successful formula, USA announced at its TCA tour session that it has commissioned backdoor pilots for two dramedy series set to air later this year.

The first is Underfunded, starring Mather Zickel (Reno 911!) as a Canadian secret serviceman who always seems short on cash. Also on tap is Psych, about a guy who skirts the law by pretending he’s a psychic detective, Hammer said. And the network announced The Starter Wife, a limited series about the life of a Hollywood wife who’s been dumped for a younger woman.

On the flip side, Hammer confirmed to Multichannel News that USA has officially canceled Ving Rhames-helmed series Kojak.

In other NBC Universal news, Sci Fi Channel will launch several new reality series, including a nationwide search for a true-life hero (Who Wants to Be a Superhero?) and the most talented homegrown psychic (The Gift).

Another psychic-based series, Medium at Large, will follow the life of celebrity psychic Char Margolis.

And Steven Spielberg will once again work with Sci Fi on a new miniseries dubbed Nine Lives, which will examine life after death. Spielberg last worked with Sci Fi in 2003 to produce supernatural series Taken.

Bravo will cook up a little competitive reality content with the March 8 debut of Top Chef, in which 12 aspiring chefs compete for a shot a culinary stardom.

The network in February will bow Project Jay, an original special featuring Project Runway’s first-season winner, Jay McCarroll. The pop-culture network will also premiere in March The Real Housewives of Orange County, a seven-episode documentary that follows the lives of five rich California housewives.

And Bravo announced the renewal of freshman series Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List and signature skein Inside the Actors Studio for a 12th season.

October