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NBC picks up series from David Kelley -- and Conan O'Brien

NBC will try next TV season to rise like the phoenix from the ashes its Jay Leno Program Primetime To Margins Debacle, with a heady lineup of new series, starring the likes of Kathy Bates, Blair Underwood, and Jimmy Smits, that hail from big-gun producers like J.J. Abrams, Jerry Bruckheimer, David Kelley, Brian Grazer - and Conan O'Brien.

Oh, and "Chuck" is back, but "Law & Order" is toast, and we're preparing the obits for "Mercy," "Trauma," and "Heroes."

Broadcast TV Upfront Week is nearly upon us. That's when local TV station executives from around the country slip their collars and head to Manhattan to attend presentations at which they learn what their network plans to perpetrate upon them next season -- after which they are shepherded off to parties to gorge themselves on whole nations of slaughtered shrimp and exotic drinks that taste like old boot soles soaked in sherry.

It's called Upfront because after seeing all the lineups, advertisers buy commercial time on the new shows upfront. This year, NBC is scheduled to trot out its new primetime plans on Monday.

That's also Fox's day at bat. But NBC has a lot to prove and Fox doesn't. So Fox has been keeping its 2010-11 season plans under wraps while NBC has been dishing out big new-season announcements for days. Most recently, the network announced it had picked up four new series: "The Cape," "Outlaw," "Harry's Law" and "Friends with Benefits." NBC also announced Friday it had renewed "Chuck" but only for 13 episodes. If "Chuck" fans know what's good for them, they won't grouse about and will instead thank NBC for this glass-half-full decision.

That's in addition to the previously announced new-series pickups of "LOLA' ("Law & Order: Los Angeles"), "Perfect Couples," "Chase," "Undercovers," "The Event," "Love Bites" and "Outsourced."

"The Cape" stars David Lyons ("ER")as an honest cop in a corrupt police force who finds himself framed for a series of murders and presumed dead. He is forced into hiding, which means leaving behind his wife and son.

Here's where you'll need to follow along closely: In order to clear his good name and return to the bosom of his family, Good Cop Guy decides to become his son's favorite fictitious comic book superhero, The Cape.

Interesting strategy.

Keith David will play Max Malini, the ringleader of a "circus gang of bank robbers" who mentor Good Cop Guy and trains him to be The Cape, whose nemesis is a twisted killer who has the advantage of being a billionaire named Peter Fleming, which is so unfair. Then there's this investigative blogger chick named Orwell - of course there is! She's played by Summer Glau of "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" fame. Throw in a couple good former detectives and you've got a series, from the production team of Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun who, once upon a time, ran the entertainment divisions of Fox and ABC, respectively.

Smits will star in "Outlaw" as a Supreme Court justice who is also a playboy and gambler. Why don't they make Supreme Court justices that interesting/good looking in real life? Anyway, he quits when he suddenly realizes the system he believed in is flawed, and returns to private practice, determined to represent "the little guy" and make life a perfect hell for plenty of powerful people, using his inside knowledge of the justice system. Speaking of people who quit when they suddenly realize the system they believed in is flawed - Conan O'Brien is among the show's executive producers! (In case you've forgotten, Conan quit NBC in a huff in January when the network decided to bump him, and "The Tonight Show," past midnight to make room to return Jay Leno to late night, after Leno bombed in primetime.) Can't wait to see how this relationship develops. Fortunately, Henry Kissinger's son, David, is also an executive producer and, hopefully, can mediate.

Kathy Bates is starring in David Kelley's new law drama, "Harry's Law" as a curmudgeonly ex-patent lawyer named Harriet who has just been fired from a cushy job and is looking for a fresh start. She starts a private law practice in a shoe store with this young guy named Matthew, who was recently fired from his job as a high school teacher. Hey - it's a Kelley show, it doesn't have to make sense.

"Friends With Benefits," from Grazer, is a half-hour comedy revolving about 20-somethings as they navigate the world of "dating," NBC says. At the center of the show is this guy who is on the hunt for a perfect chick, and his "complicated relationship" with his best friend, who is a chick who just wants to settle down and raise a family. Throw in a guy who's a romantic at heart, a womanizer guy named Hoon -- and another guy character who's billed as the show's "straight shooter," which we don't even want to think about.

"Undercovers" is that new show from Abrams ("Star Trek," "Mission Impossible," "Lost," "Alias," "Fringe"). It's about a married couple who own a small catering company in Los Angeles and who were two of the CIA's best spies until they retired. Only, to keep this from being a show about a catering business, they're being sucked back into the spy world, because a spy buddy has gone missing while on the trail of a Russian arms dealer (yes, Russian villains are back!). And Abrams himself has promised to direct the pilot episode, which, NBC boasts, is his first TV series pilot directing gig since "Lost" -- and we all know how that went!

Bruckheimer is contributing "Chase" to NBC's makeover. It's a fast-paced drama that drops viewers smack into the middle of a game of cat-and-mouse as a team of U.S. marshals hunts down the nation's most dangerous fugitives, led by cowboy-boot-wearing U.S. Marshal Annie Frost (Kelli Giddish), with a "unique Texas upbringing" (the mind reels at the thought of how Bruckheimer intends to dramatize that).

On the "Heroes' "-future- looking-kinda-dim front, NBC thinks it has found its next paranormal-fan pleaser in "The Event." Jason Ritter plays an average guy who understandably wants to know what happened to his fiancee, and stumbles upon "the biggest cover-up in U.S. history." Blair Underwood plays the president of the United States.

Speaking of dim futures, NBC has finally put "Law & Order" out of its misery, though in that whole Great Mandala of Life way, with yet another spin-off, "LOLA," rising from its ashes.

In addition to the NBC comedies that are returning next season -- "Community," "Parks and Recreation," "The Office" and "30 Rock" -- NBC has ordered so many new ones that there's speculation the network might open up a new night of comedy. And NBC would not be alone: Sitcoms are expected to make a big comeback this season on other networks.

In NBC's case, the new ones also include -"Outsourced," about a Midwestern novelties company that sells whoopee cushions, foam fingers and wallets made of bacon, whose call center has been outsourced to India and whose manager is being transferred there to run the operation. Hilarity ensues.

Cindy Chupack of "Sex and the City" fame has come up with a one-hour romantic comedy anthology series called "Love Bites." Think "Love Actually" turned "Bridget Jones Diary" turned "Four Wedding and a Funeral," which, coincidentally, were all produced by the same U.K. film company -- Working Title -- that is producing this show. Becki Newton ("Ugly Betty") and Jordana Spiro ("My Boys") star as the last two single girls standing after all their friends have gotten married, and, somehow, the pilot episode manages to feature both Jennifer "Love to My Friends" Hewitt and "The Daily Show's" Senior Black Correspondent Larry Wilmore as guest stars.

Then there's "Perfect Couples," about three couples trying to find out what makes the ideal relationship. One is the "normal couple," another, the "high-drama couple," and the last is the "perfect couple" -- NBC's words.

NBC had already announced "Parenthood" would be back next season and Friday announced it is returning "Law & Order: SVU." Also returning next season are reality series "The Marriage Ref," "Minute to Win It" and "Who Do You Think You Are?"

By Lisa de Moraes  |  May 14, 2010; 4:09 PM ET
Categories:  TV News  
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Next: JJ Abrams, Bruckheimer and Conan on board NBC sked

Comments

The NBC late night shuffle and their juggling and cancelling of of programs leaves them vulnerable. Checdk out this youtube video about the fiasco called "I Got Lenoed."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5zP7_C2Fjk

Posted by: AlexT3 | May 14, 2010 10:28 PM | Report abuse

The NBC late night shuffle and their juggling and cancelling of of programs leaves them vulnerable. Check out this youtube video about the fiasco called "I Got Lenoed."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5zP7_C2Fjk

Posted by: AlexT3 | May 14, 2010 10:28 PM | Report abuse

I like the forward thinking of shows such as "Who do You Think You are?" and "Marriage Ref" where reality is combined with humor from professional entertainers...but "Minute to Win it" won't last 3 months. NBC is a very schizophrenic network right now with the whole Leno-Conan fiasco. I guess we'll have to wait and see what shakes out.

Posted by: rodh32340 | May 15, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Just so we always remember that on dramas the Big Boss should always be black, unless he or she is corrupt on incompetent.
- - - -
Border Enforcement + Immigration Moratorium = Job, Crime and Eco Sanity.

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