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A.U.S.A. aired on NBC from February until April 2003.
Courtroom comedy centering on handsome young New York Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Sullivan ( Scott Foley), who bumbled his way through his first days on the job even while showing some surprising backbone when cases got serious. His chief foil was pretty public defender Susan Rakoff ( Amanda Detmer) who felt that all A.U.S.A.'s were enemies of the people and who regularly put him down. Of course that made him lust for her all the more. Geoffrey ( Peter Jacobson), was Adam's mousy supervisor, Wally ( John Ross Bowie), his grinning, goofball paralegal ( obsessed with stappling everything), and Ana ( Ana Ortiz) a street smart fellow A.U.S.A. who came to the rescue when gullible Adam was about to let his naivete get the best of him. Owen ( Eddie McClintock), was his shaggy, party-guy roommate who hung around the office looking for chicks.
An Interview with Scott Foley from Entertainment Weekly
January 23, 2003
Made in 'A.U.S.A.'
Scott Foley on his new comedy series, ''A.U.S.A.'' -- Jennifer Garner's hubby talks about making the switch from angsty drama ''Felicity'' to NBC's legal-eagle laffer
Like his wife, ''Alias''' Jennifer Garner, ''Felicity'''s Scott Foley, 30, will battle for justice in his new NBC show, ''A.U.S.A.'' (premiering Feb. 4). But while Garner is all sleekness and cool, Foley, who plays a struggling newbie assistant U.S. attorney (hence the show's initials) is...let's put it this way: In the wacky sitcom's pilot he deals with the peril of dripping urine on his own pants, which would never fly in the CIA.
Have you suffered whiplash going from the hushed tones and pensive glances of ''Felicity'' to a comedy where you hump a bathroom air dryer?
''A.U.S.A.'' is the antithesis. But the great thing about ''Felicity'' was that they'd say ''Cut!'' and the cast would go nuts. We had a great group that was always screwing around.... When I even try to take a pregnant pause on ''A.U.S.A.,'' the audience thinks it's time to laugh.
Any trouble with all the legal terminology?
It's not too tough. Although reading ''tortious'' and then saying ''torturous'' at a read-through was embarrassing.
Putting ''U.S.A.'' in your title can't hurt these days.
You just cannot go wrong there. But some people say to me, ''How's 'Aa-oo-sa'?'' I say, ''No, it's 'A.U.S.A.' 'Aa-oo-sa' isn't a word.''
After all of Keri Russell's bad haircut publicity, are you determined to never cut yours?
I have to say, in defense of Keri, that I thought she looked better in short hair. Also, they moved ['Felicity''s time slot] the year she cut it, and SHE got the blame for the decline in ratings. Amazing.
In sitcom tradition, you realize you'll inevitably be anointed with guest-star parents from old '80s sitcoms. Who'd you like to be adopted by?
Do you think Scott Baio's old enough? That would be bizarre.
An Article from The New York Times
Federal Prosecutors As Fodder for a Sitcom; 'You Don't Have to Stretch,' Says Show's Creator, Once of Foley Square Himself
By BENJAMIN WEISER
Published: January 31, 2003
The hottest piece of videotape being passed around these days in the United States attorney's office in Manhattan has nothing to do with drugs, terrorism or the mob.
Instead, when high-powered prosecutors first gathered to view the tape a while back, they burst into uproarious laughter. ''People would stop by, and say, 'What the heck are they laughing at?' '' said Michael Kulstad, a press officer.
They were laughing at themselves.
The prosecutors were screening an advance copy of the first episode of a new comedy series, ''A.U.S.A.,'' which will premiere on Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. on NBC. The show, whose title means ''assistant United States attorney,'' is all about their office at Foley Square, near City Hall.
A second television show about the federal attorneys, a drama called ''Homeland,'' is also in development. But can these shows win an audience?
''I think people wrongly perceive us as kind of stiff and boring, and not as the attractive, funny, interesting people that we are,'' James B. Comey, the actual United States attorney, said with a chuckle.
''Law and Order,'' one of the most successful legal shows in history, is all about local prosecutors, modeled after the office of District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau. But federal prosecutors have been a harder sell.
Two previous attempts to dramatize the United States attorney's office in Manhattan, both one-hour dramas on CBS in 1997, failed to make it past their first season. Yet the directors of the new efforts are convinced that the office's stories are too good to ignore.
''A.U.S.A.'' is the brainchild of Richard Appel, 39, who worked as an assistant United States attorney in Manhattan from 1990 to 1993, before moving to Los Angeles to write for ''The Simpsons'' and ''King of the Hill.'' He then set out to write a sitcom about his experiences, he said by phone from Los Angeles, where the show is produced.
He said that what makes the office at Foley Square ''great for drama and story and comedy is that it's truly an organic magnet for every walk of life.''
''You don't have to stretch to find rich or poor defendants, high-powered attorneys or sleazy defense lawyers, fantastic judges or judges with odd personality quirks,'' he continued. ''They all have a reason to be here.''
''It's almost like Madame Tussaud's come to life,'' he added.
The lead character in ''A.U.S.A.'' is a young assistant played by the actor Scott Foley, a former star of ''Felicity.''
On his first day of work, the young A.U.S.A. does just about everything wrong, including trying to make a date with a woman he meets in the courthouse who turns out to be a juror in his first trial.
The show has a sprinkling of contemporary references. The prosecutor's roommate asks, ''So who are you taking down first? Racketeers? Dirty cops? Martha Stewart?'' (TV can joke, but fairness demands a note that Ms. Stewart's financial dealings are under scrutiny by federal prosecutors in Manhattan and that she denies wrongdoing.)
By the end of the first episode, the hero has somehow managed to keep his integrity and laugh at himself.
''When he says in the courtroom scene, 'I protect people from the bad guys,' '' Mr. Appel explains, ''I want that to be his motivation. It sounds kidlike, but that is a noble ambition, and noble ambition meeting base reality is a great area for comedy.''
But he has been careful not to make the lead ''a holier-than-thou character,'' he said. ''Did I ever use the Justice Department phones to call my mom? Maybe once or twice. I'm no angel.''
The second show, ''Homeland,'' is currently being reviewed by several networks after being passed on recently by ABC.
Its co-creator, the film director Doug Liman (''Go,'' ''Swingers,'' ''The Bourne Identity'') says he envisions a weekly drama that is serious but not heavy-handed. ''More youthful -- not 'Law and Order,' '' he said.
A native New Yorker, Mr. Liman, 36, is not a lawyer, but grew up hearing about the United States attorney's office from his father, Arthur L. Liman, who had worked in the office in the 1960's before becoming one of the country's most prominent litigators. (He died in 1997.)
But, as Mr. Liman recalled, it was not until his brother Lewis joined the office in the 1990's that he grew to appreciate how fascinating a prosecutor's job could be.
''With my brother, I got to actually go sit in trials,'' Mr. Liman said. ''If I had known that that job existed, I would have gone into law.''
Mr. Liman said that he and the show's writer, Michael Duggan, focus not only on the ''bright legal minds'' in the prosecutors' office, but also on how they deal with the problems young people face in New York, where the show will be filmed.
''We go home with them, and we see how they are juggling,'' Mr. Liman said. ''It's a combination of having to deal with pretty weighty and intellectually challenging and oftentimes nationally important cases, and at the same time, trying to get a date. Or trying to find a place to live on a government salary.''
So why have previous shows about A.U.S.A.'s failed to catch on?
For one thing, the job title is hard to remember, said Steven M. Cohen, a former assistant. He recalls his mother's constantly telling people how proud she was that her son was a ''U.S.D.A.''
''They thought I worked for the Department of Agriculture,'' he said.
Dick Wolf, creator of ''Law and Order,'' notes that the federal system also typically lacks the single most important ingredient in such shows -- murder trials.
'' 'Law and Order' is coming up on episode 300 -- and that's 300 murders,'' he said. ''The reality is that if you are turning out a weekly series, ''you need a murder.''
Mr. Wolf tried to develop his own drama about the office (the working title was ''Southern District,'' but was changed to ''Feds''). The CBS show starred Blair Brown as a fearless United States attorney who went after mobsters and the tobacco industry. But ''Feds'' was off the air after just one season.
Michael Chernuchin, the show's co-creator with Mr. Wolf, said: ''I still buy the concept. You can't even mention that to Dick without him getting heartburn. Such a good show. Such a good cast. Maybe we were ahead of our time.''
Another attempt, called ''Michael Hayes,'' starred David Caruso in the role of a crusading United States attorney in Manhattan who did not hesitate to take to the streets with his gun. His gun?
The crime writer Nicholas Pileggi, who helped develop the show, said one of the typical quandaries of the genre is that ''all of the cop work is done by the time the envelope is dropped on the desk of the assistant U.S. attorney trying the case.''
''Law and Order'' solved that problem by devoting its first half-hour to police work, before shifting its focus to the D.A.'s. Mr. Pileggi said that to spice up the action in ''Michael Hayes,'' the Caruso character was made an ex-detective, so he could justify carrying a gun.
''That allowed the show to have a U.S. attorney whose instincts were basically those of a cop,'' Mr. Pileggi said. The show also lasted only about a season on CBS.
In Mr. Liman's proposed ''Homeland'' show, he said he wanted to model the role of one prosecutor after his brother, but the character has since evolved into ''how I imagine my father must have been when he was in that office.''
''Because one of the things that I remember from growing up,'' he said, ''was he used to tell me that putting people in jail for a living got to him -- he didn't have the stomach for it after a while.''
Back in Los Angeles, Mr. Appel said that he enjoys regaling the ''A.U.S.A.'' writing staff with long stories from his days at Foley Square. But occasionally he sees their eyes glaze over.
So he was not entirely surprised when a 3 x 5 card was posted in the writing room. It said: ''Less legalese. More giggles please.''
A Review From The New York Times
TELEVISION REVIEW; A New Show Blessed for What It Isn't
By ALESSANDRA STANLEY
Published: February 4, 2003
''A.U.S.A.,'' a new NBC sitcom set in the United States attorney's office in Manhattan, seems startlingly old-fashioned: it is a three-camera taped show with a laugh track, a cast of likable oddballs and dialogue sprinkled with references that seem taken from an old Bob Newhart episode, like Bob Dole and the Tuskegee airmen of World War II.
Tonight's episode may not be as madcap and original as ''Will & Grace'' or as artfully written as ''Friends,'' but ''A.U.S.A.'' -- for assistant United States attorney -- is not a reality show. That alone should be honored as an extraordinary act of will by NBC. Viewers should not only watch it, they should march en masse to Rockefeller Center and festoon the gates with bouquets, balloons and messages of thankful praise.
Just as the American government turns a blind eye to autocratic excesses in Kazakhstan, viewers can no longer afford to be too picky about their network sitcoms and dramas. The alternative to ''A.U.S.A.'' may not be a more imaginative sitcom, it could be yet another dating contest, perhaps real-life federal prosecutors scouring women's correctional facilities for the hottest inmate.
''Joe Millionaire,'' ''The Bachelorette'' and ''American Idol'' have converted even the most skeptical network executives to the immediate future of television, and it does not lie in expensive, well-constructed comedies. Two weeks after predicting that the reality-show craze would soon collapse, CBS confessed it, too, was rushing to schedule more reality shows for fall. ''The world as we knew it is over,'' Leslie Moonves, the president of CBS Television, explained.
''Friends'' and ''Frasier'' are to disappear after next season, putting tremendous pressure on NBC to develop new hits to take their place. NBC scheduled ''A.U.S.A.'' on Tuesdays after ''Frasier'' to try it out as a possible substitute for the poorly rated ''Hidden Hills.'' That deplorable sitcom about sex-starved suburban baby boomers was the network's effort to branch out to family comedies like ''Everybody Loves Raymond'' and ''According to Jim,'' which did well for CBS and ABC.
With ''A.U.S.A.'' NBC returns to what it does best, sophisticated farce centered around single urban professionals. Not that sophisticated, however. In one scene shown many times in promos, a judge walks in as the new and nervous prosecutor, Adam Sullivan, played winningly by Scott Foley (''Felicity''), tries to dry his trousers by pressing his hips against the men's room dryer.
In tone and comic sensibility, ''A.U.S.A.'' feels less like a successor to ''Frasier'' than another 90's sitcom on NBC, ''Wings.''
The executive producer, Richard Appel (''The Simpsons,'' ''King of the Hill''), based the series on his own experiences as a prosecutor in New York in the early 90's, and it reflects a United States attorney's worldview: F.B.I. agents are stiff, pompous and doltish.
The hero is saddled with an inept paralegal, Wally, played with considerable finesse by John Ross Bowie (''Road Trip''), and a beautiful blond adversary, Susan Rakoff, a public defender played by Amanda Detmer (''The Majestic''). In the first episode Ms. Rakoff's character is a generic lust interest. She is not so much dressed in low-cut blouses and miniskirts as she is trussed in them.
If nothing else, she is a sign that even if David E. Kelley's ''Ally McBeal'' and this year's short-lived ''Girls Club'' were canceled, his vision of women in the courtroom lives on. And that is just fine. At least she is a fictional character and not a contestant in ABC's next big reality show, ''Are You Hot? The Search for America's Sexiest People.''
NBC, tonight at 9:30, Eastern and Pacific times; 8, Central time
Creator and executive producer, Richard Appel; directed by Andrew Weyman, Steve Zuckerman and Linda Mendoza; producer, Shari Tavey; edited by Kirk Bensen; written by Abraham Higginbotham, Warren Lieberstein, Halsted Sullivan, Judah Miller and Murray Miller; director of photography, Bobby Byrne; music by Roger Neill. Produced by NBC Studios and 20th Century Fox TV.
WITH: John Ross Bowie (Wally Berman), Amanda Detmer (Susan Rakoff), Scott Foley (Adam Sullivan), Peter Jacobson (Geoffrey Laurence), Eddie McClintock (Owen Harper) and Ana Ortiz (Ana Rivera).
A Review from USA TODAY
Posted 2/4/2003 12:11 AM Updated 2/4/2003 11:33 AM
Tasteful laughs are AWOL on NBC's mediocre 'A.U.S.A.'
By Robert Bianco, USA TODAY
Surely most people would rather not be introduced to a guy in a sitcom immediately after he has urinated on his pants leg.
There was a time when that admonition would have gone without saying. You know, before toilet humor had become so prevalent on TV, we could actually move on to jokes about missing the toilet. But those days are long gone. Now, with sitcoms in eclipse, new comedies are willing to do just about anything to grab your attention.
Hence that image you've seen in the A.U.S.A. promos of Scott Foley's Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Sullivan trying to dry his pants under a bathroom hot-air machine. You can tell from the ads that the scene is unseemly. What you can't tell until you've seen it in full is that it's also forced and unfunny, despite the out-of-control guffaws blasting at you over the souped-up laugh track.
What is happening here? The show's failure to amuse wouldn't matter so much if the show were completely hopeless from the get-go like, say, every other new NBC sitcom this season. But on the face of it, A.U.S.A. should be a much better show that it is, which is what makes its mediocrity so perplexing.
After all, though he's a newcomer to sitcoms, Foley is an established, easy-to-like TV star (via Felicity) with a natural, low-key charm. As for the show's creator, former lawyer-turned-writer Richard Appel has an impressive list of credits; he has won three Emmys for his work on two of TV's funniest shows, The Simpsons and King of the Hill. Following the old instruction to "write what you know," he has based this show on his own experience as an assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan.
So how is it that nothing about A.U.S.A. rings true? Every situation and character seems to have come from some well-worn sitcom manual, from the overeager Adam to the prissy public defender on whom he has a crush (Amanda Detmer), to the boneheaded best friend who serves as his roommate (Eddie McClintock).
As for its view of New York City, A.U.S.A. is yet another NBC sitcom set in a Manhattan that is curiously devoid of African-Americans. The one bow to diversity is Ana Ortiz as Ana Rivera, a former cop who naturally plays the tough girl to Detmer's more fragile flower.
In tonight's premiere, bathroom jokes ("I just want you both to know, your honors, I only did Number One") share time with a truly tasteless and strangely stale jab at Bob Dole.
Happily, next week's episode, in which Adam rethinks his career path, is sweeter and makes better use of Foley's puppy-dog appeal. It's just not any funnier.
And that's no way to introduce a sitcom.
A Review From The Michigan Daily
'A.U.S.A' not A-OK
By Christian Smith, Daily Arts Writer
For four years, Scott Foley played charming doofus Noel Crane on the WB's critically adored college drama "Felicity." He brought that same nebbish charisma to NBC's "Scrubs" last year in a two-episode guest stint. With "A.U.S.A," NBC's new legal comedy, Foley makes it three-for-three in the charm department. Unfortunately, he didn't bring along any of the other qualities that make those other two shows so compelling.
After first hearing about "A.U.S.A.", it seemed to have the potential to capture the quirky essence of "Scrubs" and its inventive take on a tired genre. What "Scrubs" did to the medical genre - givinng a face of humanity to those intense doctors - "A.U.S.A." could have done for lawyers, if that's at all possible. Instead, it comes off as another stiff and contrived sitcom leaving Foley no room to shine.
In tonight's pilot episode, we meet Foley's Adam Sullivan, a promising young assistant U.S. attorney (hence, the title). It's his first day on the job as a federal prosecutor, and it's going to be a long one. After an accident at the firing range (evidently that's a requirement for new prosecutors), Sullivan works duly hard trying to impress his unappeasable boss (Peter Jacobson) and Susan, the public defender he's up against (Amanda Detmer), who also happens to be his former college crush. He comes across one misfortune after another, including a sexually-charged encounter with a bathroom hand-dryer and an accidental case of jury-tampering. But while these circumstances could be utilized to opportune comedic effect, "A.U.S.A." doesn't take advantage of the situations.
None of the supporting characters do much to help take the pressure off of Foley, (Eddie McClintock) Sullivan's easygoing roommate, is downright infuriating. The one exception is John Ross Bowie as the incompetent paralegal Wally, who grows a liking to Sullivan. If not for him, Foley would be completely hung out to dry. Although the dimwitted lackey character is hardly an original move, Bowie's mindless devotion comes off as refreshing in this otherwise mechanical contraption.
It's as if network executives just took the old sitcom formula, changed the variables and plugged it into the machine. Unless "A.U.S.A." makes some considerable changes soon, look for this midseason replacement's tenure to be a short one.
An Article from The New York Times
COVER STORY; Hear the One About the Funny Lawyer?
By Hugh Hart
Published: March 02, 2003
Richard Appel graduated from Harvard Law School, clerked for Judge John Walker at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and prosecuted criminals for three years at the United States attorney's office for the Southern District of New York. Then he found his true vocation. Mr. Appel began writing sitcoms.
''It's easier to believe they would let a lawyer write for 'The Simpsons,' '' he said, ''than it is to think they'd let a 'Simpsons' writer decide who to indict.'' Mr. Appel, 39, mused about his loopy career path on the Fox lot as actors rehearsed scenes from ''A.U.S.A.,'' a new comedy series named after his old job title (assistant United States attorney).
A co-production of NBC and 20th Century Fox Television, ''A.U.S.A.'' had its premiere on NBC in February in an enviable time slot: 9:30 on Tuesday nights, right after ''Frasier.'' Scott Foley stars as Adam Sullivan, a rookie prosecuting lawyer who has a crush on a spunky public defender (Amanda Detmer) despite their philosophical differences. He's surrounded by a cranky boss (Peter Jacobson), a geeky legal aide (John Ross Bowie) and a wacky roommate (Eddie McClintock).
'Would I necessarily say to everybody who wants to be a comedy writer, the first thing to do is to go to law school? No. I think there are probably more direct routes,'' Mr. Appel said. And yet he remembers witnessing plenty of funny business as a lawyer. ''People would come back from court with transcripts and put their best stuff on their doors. You could literally spend an hour walking around the office and read these hilarious moments, where a witness would just self-explode or the judge would use some malapropism. These were scripts, ready to go.''
Mr. Appel joined the United States attorney's office in Manhattan in 1990, shortly after Rudolph W. Giuliani left. ''I saw an amazing variety of life come in and out of that building, which is a magnet for every kind of character,'' he said. ''You'll see a pompous defense lawyer, a brilliant judge, a judge a little off his rocker, D.E.A. agents who are honest, some federal agents who are shady -- they all have business being there. As a storyteller, that's a gift.''
Gradually Mr. Appel realized his favorite part of the job had become writing jokes for the occasional office ''roast.'' ''I liked being in front of juries, I loved negotiation pleas and making everyone happy,'' he said. ''But temperamentally I was maybe a little doomed. I'm not sure I ever would have been a great prosecutor because I don't find it that easy to sit in judgment of other people.''
Mr. Appel did find it relatively easy to attract the attention of Hollywood agents, in part because he'd written for The Harvard Lampoon. Former contributors like Conan O'Brien had helped turn the university humor magazine into a hot credential, he said. ''The Harvard-Hollywood connection started to happen when I was going to law school. By the time I got up the nerve to send a bunch of scripts to agents, the fact that I'd been on The Harvard Lampoon helped. I could think of maybe a dozen other people who had gone to Harvard and become writers on shows like 'Seinfeld' and 'The Simpsons.' There was a sense among agents that 'Hey, maybe that's a place to find new writers.' ''
So in 1993, Mr. Appel quit his job and moved here with his wife, the novelist Mona Simpson, and their infant son.
The gamble paid off. Mr. Appel's initial 10-week contract at ''The Simpsons'' turned into a four-year, two-Emmy tenure. He was an executive producer of ''King of the Hill'' from 1997 to 2001, picking up a third Emmy. And 15 months ago, he sold NBC on ''A.U.S.A.'' and began looking for someone to play a taller, funnier version of himself. More than 150 actors auditioned before Mr. Foley read for the part. Mr. Appel hired him on the spot.
''Scott, both in person and as his character, has this rare quality,'' said Mr. Appel. ''He's immensely likable and sincere, without being obnoxious. I thought, 'Boy, let me have some of that to work with.' ''
The affable Mr. Foley, dressed in jeans, a black sweater and boots, settled into his character's book-lined ''office'' and explained his take on ''A.U.S.A.'' ''This isn't really a jargon-heavy show. You get to see the law stuff, but you also go outside the courtroom. I don't want to say the cases themselves are secondary, but not unlike 'Felicity,' this show is also about relationships. The cases are understandable and relatable to the average Joe -- me -- so, no, I didn't have to go learn what 'tortius' meant. I don't have to know that.''
Which is a good thing. Unlike his Harvard-educated employer, Mr. Foley, 30, didn't go to college. ''I was never good in school,'' he breezily admitted. ''Homework? That took me away from seeing my friends. The amount of Ivy League writers we have in the writers' rooms, there are brains dripping off the walls. It's so intellectual it gives me a headache.''
Immediately after graduating from high school in St. Louis, Mr. Foley moved to Los Angeles, where he waited tables and studied acting for seven years. In 1998, he landed the role of Noel Crane, Keri Russell's earnest college classmate and sometime boyfriend, on ''Felicity.'' There he met his wife, the actress Jennifer Garner, star of the hit series ''Alias.''
When Mr. Appel came calling after ''Felicity's'' four-year run, Mr. Foley said he had one reservation. If the show became a hit, would ''A.U.S.A.'s'' premise be fertile enough to generate three or four seasons' worth of stories?
Mr. Appel is convinced that won't be a problem, noting that Judge Walker, his former boss, has already pitched him some true-life tales populated by genuine courthouse characters.
But there's one outlandish story twist Mr. Appel promises to steer clear of. ''I've assured my mother that I will not allow Scott's character, if this show succeeds, to leave the U.S. attorney's office after three years and go right to 'The Simpsons.' '' Mr. Appel said. ''You can only do that to a kind woman once. And besides, who would believe it?''
For more on A.U.S.A. go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A.U.S.A.
For Tim's TV Showcase go to https://web.archive.org/web/20030604111455/http://www.timstvshowcase.com/ausa.html
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaCthPENDE4
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Keywords: A.U.S.A. Cast