Four for 'Zone,’ 'Monk’

USA Network’s two high-profile original series will be rewarded with new episodes in 2005.

Supernatural thriller The Dead Zone will be back for a fourth season next summer after an impressive summer 2004 ratings run, the network announced. It will join basic cable’s top-rated original series Monk, which will also kick off its fourth season next summer.

Dead Zone will return next summer with 22 episodes, according to USA officials. The skein, based on the Stephen King novel and starring Anthony Michael Hall, rebounded from a lackluster second-season performance to average a 2.7 household rating this summer, up 22% from the 2.3 it posted in 2003.

USA executive vice president of series and longform programming Jeff Wachtel attributed Dead Zone’s ratings resurgence to stronger scripts and more character-based plots. He also said the show benefited from the strong lead-in of the network’s limited series The 4,400. That series, which chronicled the lives of 4,400 alien abductees sent back to Earth, averaged a 4.6 household rating, according to Nielsen Media Research data.

“It was great to see that Dead Zone kept the adult audience that came to The 4,400 — it was the first time we put an evening together of original programs back to back,” Wachtel said.

“We had that great kick in the pants from The 4,400, which brought a lot of people back to the show and they were happy with what they saw.”

Quirky detective series Monk will join Dead Zone on the USA’s schedule next summer, after finishing the first half of its third season with typically impressive ratings. The Tony Shalhoub-starrer averaged a 4.1 household rating for nine episodes during the summer, an 18% increase over 10 episodes run during summer 2003, according to USA Network. The show will finish its third season next January with seven new installments.

“It is a wonderful, clean concept with tremendous scripts and an extraordinary star,” Wachtel said. “It doesn’t re-invent television, it just does it very well.”

USA will have to revamp the series to some extent: Golden Globe-nominated Bitty Schram, who plays a nurse and assistant to Shalhoub’s obsessive-compulsive detective, will not return to the show when it resumes in January, following what USA officials called an “amicable” departure.

Meanwhile, Wachtel wouldn’t rule out the possibility of broadcast network ABC repurposing the show again.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.