NBC shuffles its infront


NBC's final preparations for its Monday infront were halted Thursday with the sudden death of vp drama development Nora O'Brien.

Scheduled Thursday screenings of the pilots for "Mercy," "Off Duty" and "State of Romance" were postponed to today, when network brass also is slated to see "Parenthood," on whose set O'Brien died, as well as "Day One," "100 Questions for Charlotte Payne" and "Trauma."

The only pilots seen by NBC's executives are "Community," "Legally Mad" and "Lost & Found," which screened Wednesday. Of those, the early front-runner "Community," starring Chevy Chase, is said to have received a very good reception, with David E. Kelley's "Mad" and the Dick Wolf-produced procedural "Found" getting mixed-to-cold reaction.

Both dramas have something going for them. Although the pilot for "Mad" is said to have problems, the project's hefty series commitment and the fact that it has one of TV's top showrunners, Kelley, at its helm weigh in its favor. Meanwhile, "Found" comes from another heavy hitter, Wolf, who has a long-standing relationship with NBC. It is considered the type of lower-cost 8 p.m. show the network needs after deciding to strip a Jay Leno-fronted talk show at 10 p.m., and it has a promotable star in Katee Sackhoff.

"Parenthood," a new take on the 1989 movie boasting an A-list cast led by Peter Krause, continues to be a front-runner on the drama side, with the action-packed "Trauma" also tracking strong.

The chances of "Mad," "Found," "Day One" and "Mercy" will depend on how many of its bubble drama series NBC will bring back. The midseason cop show "Southland" looks very likely to return, possibly for midseason. And to the delight of staunch "Chuck" supporters, the chances of survival for the quirky soft-rated series have improved slightly. And "Law & Order" is looking good to match "Gunsmoke's" record 20-season run, possibly with a partial order.

On the half-hour side, "Community" is pretty much a lock, with "Off Duty" and "Charlotte" having some buzz.

The midseason comedy "Parks and Recreation" looks good to come back, with "My Name Is Earl" remaining a question mark. The latter show's producers were expected to make their pitch at the end of this week, with the pickup said to be hinging on the cost of the 4-year-old show.

Although most bet that "Earl" would return to NBC, the studio had been looking at contingencies like taking the series elsewhere, including to Fox.