As usual, NBC has kicked off its pickups of new series with orders to pilots from its sister studio Universal Television.
The network has picked up to series Memphis legal drama Bluff City Law, starring Jimmy Smits, from The Brave creator Dean Georgaris and producer David Janollari; and Queens immigrant comedy Sunnyside, starring, co-written and executive produced by Kal Penn and executive produced by Michael Schur.
In many cases, the first new series to be picked up go on the fall schedule; for instance, NBC’s first pick last year was Uni TV-produced medical drama New Amsterdam, which landed the Tuesday 10 PM slot for fall.
The pickup of Sunnyside gives Schur, who just signed a huge new overall deal with Uni TV, four series on the air. He has The Good Place and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, both already renewed for next season, and Sunnyside on NBC as well as Q-Force, an upcoming animated series for Netflix.
Co-written by Penn and Murray with Schur supervising, Sunnyside stars Penn as former New York City Councilman Garrett Shah, who finds his calling when faced with six recent immigrants in need of his help and in search of the American Dream. In keeping the authenticity of the project, the producers assembled a cast of predominantly immigrant actors to star opposite Penn, a rarity on broadcast TV.
The project marks a return to comedy for Penn, who co-starred on the ABC drama Designated Survivor the past two seasons. He is returning to the White House series for its upcoming third season on Netflix but has a one-year deal and is free and clear to do Sunnyside.
Co-created by Georgaris and Michael Aguilar and written by Georgaris, Bluff City Law is a character-driven drama that follows the lawyers of an elite Memphis firm that specializes in the most controversial landmark civil rights cases. Led by legendary lawyer Elijah Strait (Smits) and his brilliant daughter, Sydney Keller (Caitlin McGee), they take on the toughest David-and-Goliath cases while navigating their complicated relationship.
This marks Smits’ return to NBC and the legal drama arena. He has starred in three previous NBC series: legal dramas L.A. Law and Outlaw as well as White House drama The West Wing.
Launching a new hit legal drama series has been a priority for NBC. Recent attempts included the Chicago Justice spinoff from the Chicago franchise.
For the second time in three years, Georgaris received two pilot orders in the same cycle this year with Bluff City Law and ABC’s The Baker and the Beauty. In 2017, he also had pilots at NBC (The Brave) and ABC (Las Reinas) with the NBC one going to series. History is repeating itself this year with the Bluff City Law pickup. (The Baker and the Beauty is considered a longer shot.)
NBC will be the first broadcast network to unveil its 2019-20 lineup on Sunday and present it to advertisers on Monday morning as part of an NBCUniversal upfront. NBC traditionally is the first to start pre-upfront pickup action on Monday and Tuesday, followed by Fox and the CW, with ABC and CBS typically waiting until the second of half of pre-upfront week.
Here are detailed descriptions and credits for the newly picked up NBC series:
BLUFF CITY LAW
Coming from a famous Memphis family known for taking on injustice, brilliant lawyer Sydney Strait used to work at her father Elijah’s celebrated law firm until their tumultuous relationship got in the way. After barely speaking to him for years, Sydney is suddenly thrust back into the family fold when her philanthropist mother passes away unexpectedly. In the wake of her loss, hoping to reconnect with the daughter he loves, Elijah asks Sydney to rejoin his ﬁrm. She agrees because despite her lingering resentment and distrust, she knows that working alongside her father is her best hope at changing the world … if they can ever get along.
The cast includes Jimmy Smits, Caitlin McGee, Scott Shepherd, Barry Sloane, Michael Luwoye, MaameYaa Boafo, Stony Blyden and Jayne Atkinson.
Dean Georgaris will write and executive produce. Michael Aguliar and David Janollari will executive produce.
“Bluff City Law” is produced by Universal Television in association with David Janollari Entertainment.
Garrett Modi was living the American Dream. As the youngest New York City Councilman ever, he was rubbing elbows with the political elite, attending star-studded parties and was the pride of Queens. But instead of spending his time in ofﬁce helping the people that got him elected, he lost his way amidst the power and glamour of politics. When his downward spiral got him busted for public intoxication (and downright stupidity), it was all caught on tape and ended his career. Now, Garrett’s crashing with his sister, Mallory, and wondering where it all went wrong. That is, until he’s hired by a diverse group of hopefuls who dream of becoming American citizens and believe he can help – giving him a new sense of purpose and a chance for redemption, as long as he remembers where he came from.
The cast includes Kal Penn, Diana Maria Riva, Joel Kim Booster, Kiran Deol, Poppy Liu, Moses Storm and Samba Schutte.
Kal Penn and Matt Murray will write and executive produce. Michael Schur will be supervising executive producer. David Miner and Dan Spilo will executive produce. Oz Rodriguez directed the pilot.
Sunnyside is produced by Universal Television in association with Fremulon and 3 Arts Entertainment.