Habeas Gorgeous: USA Re-Ups Shahi Show

Fairly Legal to get a second-season order

While USA Network has yet to make it official, it’s looking increasingly likely that freshman drama Fairly Legal is returning for a second season.

The network tipped its hand on Wednesday when it released the guest list for its 2011-12 upfront presentation, which will be held in the tent at Lincoln Center on Monday, May 2. Listed fourth among the 33 stars and producers that will make up USA’s charm offensive is Fairly Legal’s luminous female lead, Sarah Shahi.

Despite USA’s silence on the matter, Shahi’s army––the actress has 27,915 Twitter followers and 32,272 Facebook fans––can rest easy knowing that a second season is almost certainly in the works. After all, it’s not as if the network would invite Shahi to make the trip from L.A. if USA weren’t preparing to announce a second-season pickup of her series.

That said, the show will almost certainly undergo a bit of an overhaul. While the network is over the moon about its star, Fairly Legal’s pacing and plot lines dragged in the latter half of the season.

The show closed out its first run on March 24, delivering 4.08 million viewers. And while its ratings were sound enough to merit a renewal almost anywhere else—over the course of 10 installments, Fairly Legal averaged 3.55 million viewers—for USA, those deliveries were almost disappointing. By way of comparison, Burn Notice, Royal Pains, and Covert Affairs all average around 7 million viewers, per Nielsen L+7 data.

Originally titled Facing Kate, Legal’s initial order was trimmed from 12 to 10 episodes in November 2010. No word on how many installments USA has in the hopper for the second season.

USA’s programming success presents somewhat of an enviable challenge, as the network is now practically overstocked with homegrown fare. Along with Fairly Legal, USA has six other original series on its slate; with the addition of the upcoming skeins Suits and Necessary Roughness, the cable powerhouse boasts nine exclusive dramas.

This fall, the network will also begin airing the off-net acquisitions NCIS: Los Angeles and 24.

USA closed out the first quarter of 2011 tops among all cable nets, averaging 3.08 million viewers in prime, of which 1.16 million were members of the 18-49 demo.