'Black Lightning,' 'Life Sentence' Land CW Series Pickups; 'Originals,' 'iZombie' Renewed

BLACK LIGHTNING First Look - Publicity - EMBED 2017
Courtesy of Warner Bros

The CW has firmed up the rest of its 2017-18 schedule, giving renewals to bubble shows The Originals and iZombie, while also handing out series pickups to DC Comics drama Black Lightning and dramedy Life Sentence.

DC Comics take Black Lightning, originally developed at Fox, brings Hart of Dixie grad Cress Williams back to the network to take on the role of Jefferson Pierce, the hero who he hung up his suit and his secret identity years ago. But with a daughter hell-bent on justice and a star student being recruited by a local gang, he’ll be pulled back into the fight as the wanted vigilante and DC legend — Black Lightning.

The project, sources note, will likely bow in midseason, given that only a short pilot presentation was filmed. The series marks the first drama to stem from The Game alums Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil, the latter who penned and directed the pilot, via their overall deal with producers Warner Bros. Television. The duo executive produce alongside studio-based Greg Berlanti and his Greg Berlanti Productions topper Sarah Schechter. Black Lightning joins a roster of DC Comics-themed dramas at The CW that also includes previously renewed The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow and Riverdale — all produced by Berlanti. Nafessa Williams, China Anne McClain and Christine Adams co-star. 

Life Sentence revolves around a young woman (Pretty Little Liars' Lucy Hale) who, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, finds out that she's not dying after all and has to learn to live with the choices she made when she decided to "live like she was dying." From prolific producer Bill Lawrence and his Warner Bros. Television-based Doozer Productions banner, Erin Cardillo and Richard Keith (Significant Mother) penned the script and exec produce alongside Doozer topper Jeff Ingold. CBS Television Studios has also boarded the series as a co-producer.

Dylan Walsh, Gillian Vigman, Elliot Knight, Carlos PenaVega, Jayson Blair and Brooke Lyons round out the cast. Life Sentence is one of two pilots Lawrence (Scrubs, Undateable) had in the works this season. (The other, single-camera comedy Spaced Out, was passed over at NBC.) This is Lawrence's first series for The CW.

iZombie, meanwhile, was one of the few CW shows not to get an early renewal in January. The Warner Bros. Television drama has proved a reliable performer for the network. From veteran writer-exec producer Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars, Party Down), the zombie series is also one of several DC properties at the network (see: Arrow, The Flash, etc.) Held for a midseason return with an abbreviated 13-episode order, the Rose McIver starrer is so far averaging a 0.7 rating and 1.6 million viewers in season three. Thomas, meanwhile, is a valuable producer for WBTV and is also prepping a reboot of The Lost Boys for the younger-skewing network.

Questions about The Originals' future beyond season four have persisted since it was announced that flagship series The Vampire Diaries would say farewell this season. The series, which keeps the network in business with exec producer Julie Plec, was benched until midseason, taking over for The Vampire Diaries on Fridays in March after the flagship wrapped its run. Thus far, the series is averaging a 0.7 rating and 1.6 million viewers. A full-season pickup for season five — which is considered unlikely — would bring the drama close to its 100-episode milestone. Meanwhile, the network and producers WBTV will be tasked with finding a new showrunner after the departure of Michael Narducci, who left at the end of season four for an overall deal with ABC Studios.

Black Lightning and Life Sentence join CBS Television Studios dramas Dynasty and Valor (which WBTV boarded as a co-producer) on the network's forthcoming schedule. On the pilot side, Insatiable and Searchers — both from WBTV — are still in the mix. Overall, The CW picked up four new shows this season — up one from a year ago.