NBC picks up four dramas; 'Friday' back

By Nellie Andreeva
NBC kicked off the broadcast networks' annual series-pickup frenzy with orders to dramas "The Bionic Woman," "Chuck," "Journeyman" and "Life" as well as a renewal of critical darling "Friday Night Lights."

Additionally, sources said ABC is close to a 13-episode order for the midseason comedy "Notes From the Underbelly," and CBS is close to bringing back the midseason comedy "Rules of Engagement" and the sophomore sitcom "The New Adventures of Old Christine."

Talks are said to continue about ABC possibly picking up eight to nine more episodes of its well-received but low-rated comedy "The Knights of Prosperity," featuring Donal Logue and company trying to rob Ray Romano (HR 5/10). Romano appeared at the end of the last aired episode of "Knights." He also is featured in the remaining three episodes of the show's first season, which have not aired.

All four newly picked up NBC drama series were given permission to begin staffing last week (HR 5/8).

"Bionic," from NBC Universal TV Studio, is a re-imagination of the 1970s series. David Eick, Jason Smilovic and director Michael Dinner exec produced the pilot starring Michelle Ryan, with Glen Morgan joining the series as exec producer.

"Chuck," from Warner Bros. TV, is a dramedy starring Zachary Levi as a computer geek working as a spy. Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak penned the pilot and exec produced it with the pilot's director McG.

"Journeyman," from 20th Century Fox TV, stars Kevin McKidd as a man who travels back in time to fix the lives of people in trouble. Writer Kevin Falls and director Alex Graves exec produced the pilot.

"Life," from NBC Uni TV, stars Damian Lewis as an ex-cop who rejoins the force after being wrongfully imprisoned. Rand Ravich penned the pilot and exec produced it with director David Semel.

Several other NBC pilots -- including the dramedy "Lipstick Jungle," possibly for midseason, and comedies "The IT Crowd" and "Lipshitz Saves the Universe" -- are said to have strong supporters at the network.

The full-season pickup for "FNL," which struggled in the Wednesday 8 p.m. time period, follows an order for six additional scripts NBC made in April (HR 4/11). NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly had repeatedly stated that the NBC Uni TV show would return for a second season, probably in a new time slot. The most rumored scenario has the football drama going to Fridays.

Sources said NBC's long-running drama "Crossing Jordan" won't return, while the jury is still out on "Law & Order," "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" and "Scrubs." For two of the three, "L&O" and "Scrubs," a cancellation by NBC won't necessarily mean the end of the shows, with TNT interested in picking the procedural drama and ABC interested in taking on the medical comedy.

The end of the road might be coming for another series that was looking for a new beginning, CW's "Veronica Mars." Sources indicated that the cult show, whose trailer for a fourth season set a couple of years into the feature had been warmly received by CW brass, is now back on the verge of cancellation.

A rumored CBS schedule, which made the rounds Thursday, includes the untitled Cynthia Cidre drama pilot landing the Thursday 10 p.m. time slot and "Shark" moving to the Tuesday 10 p.m. hour.

With its paranormal theme, "Babylon Fields" could be a good fit after "Ghost Whisperer" on Friday, while murder mystery-musical "Viva Laughlin" might kick off the network's Wednesday crime lineup of "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: NY."