NBC, CBS pencil in script orders

Add to freshman dramas ahead of potential strike

Five freshman drama series — NBC's "Bionic Woman," "Life," "Journeyman," "Chuck" and CBS' "Cane" — have received orders for additional scripts.

NBC picked up three more scripts of all four of its freshman series, while CBS ordered four scripts for "Cane," starring Jimmy Smits.

While it has been a growing trend during the past couple of years for the networks to hedge their bets by ordering additional scripts of new series in lieu of early full-season pickups, the extra scripts carry an additional context this year when the industry is facing a potential writers' strike.

Most of the five series are shooting episodes 8-9, with the special-effects and action-heavy "Bionic," starring Michelle Ryan, a little behind. Most shows already have the scripts for the entire initial 13-episode order in the pipeline in different stages, so an early order for additional scripts might help the networks to secure a couple more finished scripts before a potential strike, especially if it begins after the Nov. 1 deadline.

An order for additional scripts is cheaper than an episodic order, and it keeps the writers working. If the network follows them with a full-season pickup, with the teleplays already in place, the shows can resume production almost immediately with shorter hiatuses for the cast and the crew. Only one new series this season, CW's "Gossip Girl," has been given a full-season pickup so far.

Last year, virtually all freshman series, except for early casualties CBS' "Smith" and NBC's "Kidnapped," received additional script orders.