The TV Column: Lisa de Moraes on Spike TV's 'Pirate Hunters: USN'

Beantown viewers can get their fill of Jay Leno's fall prime-time show, after all; the NBC affiliate no longer plans to preempt the program.
Beantown viewers can get their fill of Jay Leno's fall prime-time show, after all; the NBC affiliate no longer plans to preempt the program. (By Carlos Osorio -- Associated Press)
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By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, April 14, 2009

When pirates kidnapped the news cycle and held it hostage for nearly a week, Viacom was not discouraged by the fact that none of its TV networks had a real news operation. Nosiree -- its Spike TV network spit on its hands and announced it had ordered up a reality series pilot in which the U.S. Navy hunts down pirates.

"Pirate Hunters: USN" is the working title of the series produced by 44 Blue Productions -- credits include A&E's "Behind Bars" and Animal Planet's "Cell Dogs," in which homeless dogs are trained by inmates to assist blind or disabled people -- and Adam Friedman, whose credits include A&E's "Air Combat," History Channel's "Masters of War" and Disney Channel's special on the 50th anniversary of the Blue Angels.

Spike's announcement came just hours after the daring high-seas rescue in which U.S. Navy SEAL snipers killed three Somali pirates and freed American sea captain Richard Phillips, who offered himself as a hostage Wednesday when the pirates boarded his cargo ship. But Friedman wants you to know that the idea has been in the works for months.

"I've always been excited about pirates," Friedman told the TV Column yesterday in a phone interview.

"It sounds strange, but since I was little I'd have nothing to do with boats, but I loved the idea of pirates. About four months ago I was thinking about a project on current-day pirates." He said he discussed the idea with Rasha Drachkovitch, 44 Blue president and founder.

Drachkovitch immediately suggested they take it to Spike, Friedman said, because of the network's demographics. Spike targets young men, which, Friedman said, is exactly "the demographic . . . the U.S. Navy likes to be around."

Spike execs immediately recognized the possibilities, Friedman continued.

"Let's face it . . . it's a win-win for everyone. It's one thing to say we're going into Iraq, and killing women and children sometimes, unfortunately. But with pirates it's a clear black-and-white thing. They're the bad guys."

The Phillips rescue was being called a victory for the Navy, but raised fears for the safety of more than 200 foreign sailors still held hostage on ships anchored off the coast of Somalia, after pirates vowed yesterday to retaliate.

But for Spike's new show, the weekend's pirate drama is all good, Friedman said.

"I don't want to sound like a ghoul, but it could not have been better to us," he said.

"It certainly brings the pirate problem in front of the world in a manner that was wonderful for us. The pirates got whacked and an American hero is saved by the Navy. . . . I think it makes the show a little more front-and-center."

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