Wednesday, April 11, 2007

NBC Adds "Law & Order: Pacman Jones Unit" To Schedule

Next month, television networks will unveil their fall primetime schedules. Between now and then, they’ll face difficult decisions regarding the fate of current shows, as well as which pilots to pick up as series. Today NBC made an announcement about one newcomer to its upcoming schedule. The network has added Law & Order: Pacman Jones Unit to its fall lineup.

The news comes one day after Jones was suspended for the entire 2007 season by the NFL due to repeated off-the-field incidents. The Tennessee Titans’ defensive back was joined in punishment by former West Virginia teammate Chris Henry, who is slated to miss eight games for the Cincinnati Bengals. With the suspensions, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent a strong message that off-the-field misconduct will not be condoned by the league. In response, NBA counterpart David Stern expressed admiration for Goodell’s hard line. Then he fined Mark Cuban.

Pacman’s disappointment quickly turned to opportunity, thanks to Law & Order franchise creator Dick Wolf. Special Victims Unit has already been renewed by NBC for next season, but the status of Criminal Intent and the original Law & Order remain in limbo. Jones’s endless rap sheet ensured that Wolf would have plenty of material for another “ripped from the headlines” series. The show will be shot in New York, as will anyone who looks at Pacman the wrong way.

The series revolves around a police unit specifically created to investigate crimes committed by Pacman Jones. Admittedly, the show may lack the suspense of other crime dramas, since the criminal will be known in every episode. However, Jones will star as himself and will provide far more open-field highlights than a creepy serial killer. A police lineup will be part of every episode, with Mel Kiper Jr. assessing the draft stock of each person in the lineup.

The new show will contain numerous elements familiar to Law & Order fans. This opening statement will be used: “In the criminal justice system, a cornerback who takes punts to the house and makes it rain is considered especially dangerous. In New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate this player are members of an elite squad known as the Pacman Jones Unit. These are their stories…” Also, the iconic “Dun-Dun” cellblock sound will be slightly revised to a quarterback shouting “Hut-Hut!” Crossovers among the L&O shows will continue, and Wolf even plans some crossover between his franchise and the Titans. Therefore, expect to see Vince Young tossing passes to Mariska Hargitay.

As for Jones, the new series will help keep him occupied while he’s out of football action. In fact, he will have numerous television opportunities. NBC also plans to use him on the next season of The Apprentice. After Donald Trump says, “You’re fired!” to a contestant, Jones and his posse will add insult to injury by pummeling the castoff in the boardroom. Pacman also plans to join Henry and new West Virginia basketball coach Bob Huggins in an ad campaign for the university. Echoing the “This is our country” Chevy commercials, images of the trio will be accompanied by John Mellencamp’s singing of “These are our convicts…”

It remains to be seen how Tennessee will address the absence of Jones in the secondary. Perhaps the Titans can work out a deal with the Kansas City Chiefs to bring Ty Law to Nashville. Pacman can’t follow the law, but maybe the Law can follow him.