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Shows, creators wait to hear ‘Yes’ or ‘No’

Harold Perrineau is waiting for a simple yes or no.

He’s waiting, just like his co-stars on ABC’s quirky new cop drama “The Unusuals,” including Amber Tamblyn, Adam Goldberg and Terry Kinney, and the rest of the cast and crew.

“It’s nail-biting time,” says Perrineau. “I’m trying to be cool, but I’m knotted up.”

Welcome to TV’s waiting game, an annual event playing out at dozens of network TV series that are neither slam-dunk hits nor terminal flops, but instead “on the bubble,” their fate undetermined as each network formulates a fall prime-time schedule.

NBC will unveil its roster today. Will struggling series such as “Chuck,” “Medium” or “My Name Is Earl” make the cut?

They’re competing for precious airtime against other contenders such as the just-launched Amy Poehler comedy “Parks and Recreation” and the gritty police drama “Southland,” plus any of several pilots vying for a series pickup – not to mention Jay Leno’s forthcoming weeknight hour, which will seize nearly one-quarter of the schedule.

At ABC, CBS, Fox and the CW, the waiting game will drag on a bit longer. Upfront week for those networks kicks off May 18.

ABC has already jumped the gun, inviting back a dozen series including “Brothers & Sisters,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Ugly Betty.”

The future remains murky for other ABC shows, such as newcomers “Castle,” “Cupid” and “The Unusuals” (10 p.m. Wednesday), in which Perrineau plays an overcautious NYPD detective who refuses to doff his bulletproof vest, even at the station.

Phoning from the Los Angeles home he shares with his wife and their two daughters, Perrineau fondly recalls shooting the season’s 10 episodes in New York.

“There was a lot of exterior stuff, and it was cold – definitely not Hawaii shooting,” he laughs, referring to his stint as a plane-crash victim on the balmy “Lost” isle. “But we were having a great time.”

Then, just about the time “The Unusuals” premiered, production wrapped: “We had a lot of ‘so longs’ and ‘I hope I get to see you guys again in a few months.’ ”

Tom Hertz, creator-producer of the CBS sitcom “Rules of Engagement” – airing at 9:30 p.m. Mondays, halfway through its 13-episode third season – is in his own holding pattern.

Hertz, whose credits include “The King of Queens,” “Spin City” and “The Larry Sanders Show,” has kept busy since “Rules” wrapped several months ago. He’s working on a screenplay, hanging out with his 5-year-old twins, and jotting down ideas for a new season, often inspired by what goes on in his marriage of 20 years.

CBS announces its fall lineup to advertisers on May 20. Hertz may not hear the verdict until only days before.

How does it happen?

“A guy with a crewcut, dark glasses and an earpiece knocks on your door,” Hertz mock-explains. “No words are spoken, but he opens a silver metallic suitcase and gives you an envelope that says ‘yes’ or ‘no’ inside.”

Which word will be in his envelope?

“I’m somewhat optimistic,” Hertz declares. “But I don’t want to be too optimistic and jinx it.”


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