'Lottery' misses jackpot; 'NCIS' plans another spinoff

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Set in a dystopian 2025, Lifetime’s “The Lottery” (10 p.m. Sunday) posits an infertile future where children are no longer born and the key to humanity’s salvation may just be a dude from … Pittsburgh!

Filmed in Montreal, this latest in a long line of conspiracy thrillers follows a disparate group of characters, including Pittsburgher Kyle Walker (Michael Graziadei, “The Young & the Restless”), father of Elvis, one of only six children born worldwide in the past five years.

A recovering alcoholic, Kyle’s primary job seems to be that of a sperm donor to wealthy women who think he may have super-sperm. In the premiere he visits a woman in a mansion who proclaims he’s right on time because she’s ovulating. (Kyle says the house is on the other side of the mountains – the Laurel Highlands, maybe? – but Pittsburghers may have more fun imagining it’s Fox Chapel or Sewickley.)

Aside from what appears to be a stock beauty shot of the city from Mount Washington, nothing in the show screams Pittsburgh. But drivers beware: When Kyle fills up his car with gas, he pays $8.79 per gallon.

Government boogeymen eventually take Elvis away from Kyle when Kyle is in the mountains and misses Elvis’ calls that he’s sick at school, but the jack-booted government thugs also mess with scientist Alison Lennon (Marley Shelton) after she fertilizes 100 embryos. Darius Hayes (Martin Donovan, “Boss”), director of the U.S. Fertility Commission, takes over Alison’s research project and wants to keep the possibility of a solution to the infertility crisis secret. But Vanessa Keller (Athena Karkanis), chief of staff to U.S. President Thomas Westwood (Yul Vazquez), wants to proclaim the discovery to the world to score political points.

“The Lottery” gives off a cheesy B-movie vibe as Alison beds a Somalian bartender because, she says, Somalians are supposedly more fertile, (There’s also a quick shot of a poster featuring a bikini-clad, distaff Uncle Sam with the slogan, “Sam wants you to donate at your local sperm bank.”) The show presents itself with utmost seriousness, but it’s tough to take seriously. While quite different for Lifetime with its dark, futuristic setting, the conspiracy elements feel overly familiar and formulaic.

After a press conference for the show Wednesday, executive producer Rick Eid, who previously wrote for the 2001-04 CBS drama “The Guardian,” said Western Pennsylvania was never considered as a filming location, and in episode two Kyle decamps for Washington, D.C. Stock footage is used for Pittsburgh establishing shots.

Executive producer Timothy Sexton, who also wrote the similarly themed film “Children of Men,” said he chose Pittsburgh as Kyle’s home because he wanted a place a believably blue-collar character would be from and for another, more personal reason.

“I’d never been to Pittsburgh and I’d always wanted to go so it was my way to go to Pittsburgh with one of these characters,” Mr. Sexton said. “Honestly, everyone I’ve ever met from Pittsburgh I liked. I like this character. … And it’s close enough to D.C. for the geography of the show to work.”

As for the possibility that cell phones don’t get reception in the Laurel Highlands in the future, Mr. Eid joked, “In 2025, the technology is still not great.”

The CW scores

Of all the broadcast networks, The CW had the best development for fall. But that's not as hard to do when you have only two new shows, the soapy "Jane the Virgin" (9 p.m. Monday starting Oct. 13) and superhero drama "The Flash" (8 p.m. Tuesday starting Oct. 7).

"Jane," based on a Venezuelan telenovela, has a loopy premise, but pulls it off thanks to its likable lead character, Jane (Gina Rodriguez), who, through a mix-up at her doctor's office, is accidentally artificially inseminated with a specimen from her boss (Justin Baldoni, "Everwood").

Executive producer Jennie Snyder Urman ("Emily Owens, M.D.") described "Jane" as a cross between "Ugly Betty" and "Gilmore Girls." Ms. Rodriguez, the show's poised lead actress who deserves to be a breakout star, said she turned down a role in Lifetime's "Devious Maids" because she found the idea of playing a maid culturally limiting.

"The way I grew up, I never saw myself on screen," she said. "I would look at the screen and think there's no way I could do it because I'm not there."

"The Flash," a spinoff from the network's "Arrow," stars Grant Gustin ("Glee") as Barry Allen, who gains the power of super speed. Unlike "Arrow" and this fall's "Batman" prequel, Fox's "Gotham," "The Flash" pilot is light and bright. And a lot of fun.

"Flash is such an optimistic character," said executive producer Geoff Johns.

"He's always wanted to be helpful, " Mr. Gustin added.

Former Pittsburgher Wentworth Miller ("Prison Break") will appear in the show's fourth episode as a character from the comic book, Leonard Snart, aka Captain Cold.

‘NCIS’ goes to New Orleans

CBS expands the "NCIS" franchise again with another spinoff, "NCIS: New Orleans" (9 p.m. Tuesday starting Sept. 23), starring Scott Bakula as special agent Dwayne Pride.

Viewers already got a taste of the new series when an "NCIS" episode aired a two-part planted pilot this past spring.

"NCIS" star Mark Harmon is an executive producer on the spinoff along with "NCIS" executive producer Gary Glasberg. The pair was discussing an arc set in New Orleans on "NCIS" when Mr. Harmon said, "These aren't sweeps episodes, that's a series," Mr. Glasberg recalled.

The spinoff will use the same military backdrop as the new team covers cases along the Gulf coast all the way over to Texas.

"The one thing that will really vary is Washington handles bigger, large-scope international instances, but that's not to say they don't encounter stories down there as well and have to call Washington for input," Mr. Glasberg said.

There are already plans for Mr. Harmon, Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette and David McCallum to cross over to "NCIS: New Orleans."

Mr. Bakula said he's not counting on the new show to become a hit, but he is hopeful.

"We have big shoes to fill, big footprints in the sand to follow," he said. "With the characters being developed for us we can invest and get an audience to invest with us and we can continue this potentially great partnership of a new show. The ball being handed off is a perfect spiral, and there's pressure that comes with that. Everyone's talking about, 'Imagine what it will be like to be on the air for 11 years,' and I say, 'Hold on!' We have to earn our place. It's not a given."

Channel surfing

FX‘‍s “Sons of Anarchy” will begin its final season at 10 p.m. Sept. 9 with a one-hour-and-45-minute season premiere followed by the post-show “Anarchy Afterword.” …TNT renewed summer dramas “The Last Ship” for 13 more episodes; “Major Crimes” will get an additional 15 episodes and “Falling Skies” will be back for a 10-episode fifth and final season. … The CW ordered 24 more episodes of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” for 2015.

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