NBC's 2010-2011 dramas, first impressions: Where the action is

the-event-nbc-320.jpgNBC is pushing a ton of new drama in the fall -- five new series will flood the airwaves at the start of the season. It also has two others on deck for midseason.

The glut of dramas is in some ways a course correction for last season, when the network cut its development back because it was putting "The Jay Leno Show" at 10. We all know how that worked out. With lots of holes to fill, NBC had to order lots of product.

The good news? More than one of the newcomers, based on the trailers NBC showed at its upfront presentation Monday (May 17) and the clips it released Sunday, look like they have a chance to be pretty darn good. Initial thoughts on the drama slate (sans "Law & Order: Los Angeles," which hasn't gone into production yet):

"The Event" (watch clips)

We don't know what the Event of the title is -- and apparently won't by the end of the pilot. We do know that it involves a guy ( Jason Ritter) whose fiancee has disappeared, a secret CIA program the new president ( Blair Underwood, pictured above with co-star Laura Innes) is only just learning about, and people with bad intentions toward our chief executive. It's a great-looking and expertly constructed trailer, and a (very) informal survey of some who've seen the full pilot drew raves across the board. We hope episode two and beyond can live up to that.

"Chase" (watch clips)

There's a certain coldness to a lot of the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced dramas currently on TV, which set so many of their scenes in moodily lit crime labs or in grainy flashbacks. So the fact that pilot director David Nutter set most of "Chase's" action in bright, sunny daylight almost feels refreshing. There's a lot of well-wrought action in the trailer, but what concerns us, as evidenced by a couple of clunky lines, is what comes in betweeen the action scenes.

"Undercovers" (watch clips)

Imagine if Sydney and Vaughn had started "Alias" as a happily married but slightly boring couple, and you have a sense of where "Undercovers" starts. Both leads ( Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw) are exceptionally easy on the eyes, and co-creator J.J. Abrams knows how to stage action as well as anyone. NBC is promising fun action and a little bit of romance, and we're inclined to think the show can deliver.

jimmy-smits-outlaw-320.jpg "Outlaw" (watch clips)

It's farfetched -- Jimmy Smits plays a Supreme Court justice who leaves the bench to go back to practicing law and trying to change the system from below rather than above -- and showed a slight tendency toward sappiness in the trailer. But Smits has undeniable charisma, and to whatever extent "Outlaw" succeeds, it will probably be on his shoulders.

"The Cape" (watch clips)

Where a bunch of "Heroes" ultimately failed, NBC is hoping a lone hero -- one without any special powers -- can succeed. David Lyons ("ER") plays a disgraced cop in a city where masked villains are not uncommon, and after he's framed for murder and presumed killed. He takes on the persona of his son's favorite superhero -- The Cape -- and goes into Batman-vigilante mode. If the story is as good as the visuals in the trailer (not a small if), NBC could have something.

"Harry's Law" (watch clips)

The trailer for David E. Kelley's new series feels a little less aggressively quirky than, say, "Boston Legal." That's not to say it doesn't have its share of eccentricities -- it's about a patent lawyer ( Kathy Bates) who gets fired, then starts up her own law practice (in a former shoe store) when a client literally falls on top of her. But Bates helps to ground all that oddness, and that helps a lot.

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Photo credit: NBC