It used to be that television networks would just formally announce their fall schedules to advertisers and press on the day of their upfront presentation in May.
This year, NBC has somewhat rewritten the rules, making a series of gradual pickups and press release announcements over the two weeks leading up to the upfront. There may not be many surprises on Sunday (May 16) when NBC unleashes its schedule, but the network has probably generated five or six times the normal amount of press.
As part of the network’s latest release to the media, NBC has officially renewed “Chuck” for a fourth season, while sending four pilots — “The Cape,” “Outlaw,” “Harry’s Law” and “Friends with Benefits” — to series.
“The addition of these four inventive series to our new scripted lineup demonstrates a wide spectrum of creative stories,” states NBC Primetime Entertainment Present Angela Bromstad. “We are featuring popular, top-flight stars along with a strong pedigree of successful writer-producers. Likewise, ‘Chuck’ has proven its enduring appeal and we love the new creative direction that Josh and Chris have taken the show.”
This announcement came just hours after NBC officially cancelled the “Law & Order” mothership, renewed “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and sent “Law & Order: Los Angeles” to series.
Let’s take a look at the four newly ordered shows:
“The Cape” stars David Lyons as a former cop framed for a series of murders. Presumed dead, he chooses to become his son’s favorite superhero, The Cape, in order to right wrongs and take the law into his own hands. Created by Thomas Wheeler (“Empire”) and directed by Simon West (“Human Target”), “The Cape” also features James Frain, David Keith and fanboy favorite Summer Glau.
Formerly known as “Garza,” “Outlaw” stars Jimmy Smits as a former Supreme Court judge who quits the bench and returns to private practice to champion the underdog. Jesse Bradford, Carly Pope, David Ramsey and Ellen Woglom co-star in the pilot, which was written by John Eisendrath and directed by Terry George (“Hotel Rwanda”).
Another retitled pilot, “Harry’s Law” is the David E. Kelley legal series formerly titled “Kindreds.” Kathy Bates, Ben Chaplin, Ami Ameen, Brittany Snow and Beatrice Rosen co-star.
Finally, on the comedy front, “Friends with Benefits” comes from “(500) Days of Summer” scribes Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber and features Ryan Hansen, Danneel Harris, Fran Kranz, Jessica Lucas and Ian Reed Kesler in a story about friends navigating the twenty-something dating scene.
Those four shows join “LOLA” (“Law & Order: Los Angeles) and the previously announced “Perfect Couples,” “Chase,” “Undercovers,” “The Event,” “Love Bites” and “Outsourced” on NBC’s 2010-11 roster.