NBC doesn't lower the ax yet

Delays verdict on pickups and renewals, preps dramas for midseason

NBC went down to the wire on its new series pickups and bubble series renewals ahead of its infront presentation today.

During what made for a nail-biting weekend for a lot of producers, the network opted to delay the official decision on its fall series picks until the morning of its infront and on some bubble pilots and series until after the presentation.

On the new series front, the Chevy Chase-starring comedy "Community" and the dramas "Trauma" and "Parenthood," which is still filming, received the highest marks during the network's pilot screenings last week and are poised to received series orders. Two other comedies, "100 Questions for Charlotte Payne" and "Off Duty," also are in serious contention, with at least one expected to make the cut.

Additionally, as of Sunday afternoon, only two series on the fence — the midseason drama "Southland" and veteran "Medium" — had received official renewals.

The John Wells-produced cop drama "Southland," starring Ben McKenzie, got a 13-episode order Friday night, and the Patricia Arquette-starring "Medium" got the nod Sunday morning, though its exact order was being worked out and expected to be in the 13- to 18-episode range. Negotiations for a fifth season of the comedy "My Name Is Earl" were ongoing.

All three series hail from outside studios — Warner Bros., CBS Par and 20th TV, respectively — and their hard-fought renewals underscore the wrangling over license fees this upfront season, in which NBC is projected to suffer the biggest ad-price drop.

The renewal of the NBC- produced comedy "Parks and Recreation," starring Amy Poehler, is expected to be announced today, with co-star Aziz Ansari rumored to open for NBC co-chairman Ben Silverman at the presentation and star Poehler expected to appear on NBC's upfront comedy showcase May 19.

However, NBC will postpone the verdict on its two remaining bubble series: the quirky sophomore "Chuck" and veteran "Law & Order," which looks to tie "Gunsmoke's" record 20-season run.

Both series appear likely to return, but the decision won't be made until later in the month.

The future of two pilots with great pedigree, David E. Kelley's "Legally Mad" and the Dick Wolf-produced "Lost & Found," also will be decided later. Those two, as well as the postapocalyptic drama "Day One," received mixed reactions at the screenings but remain in consideration for midseason. Given the ratings risk associated with the stripped Jay Leno talk show at 10 p.m., NBC is expected to stock up on drama series as midseason backups.

With so many unknowns, NBC is expected to showcase at its infront presentation what it considers its strongest new prospects for fall rather than unveil a detailed schedule that probably will be delayed until the official upfront week.

That is in stark contrast with last year, when, at its first infront presentation April 2, the network presented a 65-week schedule to advertisers.