NBC left more questions unanswered than resolved regarding the fall schedule Monday as they announced a partial list of renewed programs and new shows. But they delayed until May 19 the final decision on such key productions as Chuck, Law & Order, and My Name Is Earl.
That move is widely seen as NBC waiting to see what its competitors do, even though they've been deluged with support for Chuck from both fans and publications like USA Today and Entertainment Weekly. Reportedly they've been in negotiations with the producers of My Name Is Earl, but there's been absolutely nothing said publicly about Law & Order, once one of NBC's greatest prestige shows.
Venerable producer Dick Wolf has long been on record saying he wanted to beat the Gunsmoke record for a drama (20 seasons), and most observers still think the show's a good bet to return. But next month's finale is being written in such a way that if it doesn't get renewed, it will make a worthy conclusion for the show that helped make the police procedural the dominant form of television drama the past two decades.
The programs NBC did give new seasons include their latest cop show Southland, the new comedy Parks and Recreation, fresh Thursday editions of Saturday Night Live Weekend Update and Heroes. But among the six pilots that were picked up, the most interesting (and controversial) news concerns the network's revival of Parenthood, a Ron Howard film vehicle that's already failed once as a weekly series (1990).
Parenthood, along with medical shows Mercy and Trauma are the big draws among the new productions. Despite the online release Sunday of a story that said Medium had also been renewed, the NBC press release issued Monday indicated no decision has yet been made about that program.
What Monday's announcement also revealed was exactly how unsure and tentative things are these days on the network front. Everyone is proceeding extremely slowly and carefully, with prime emphasis on cost containment and demographic emphasis. If the producers and writers can also make a good show, that's a bonus.