BEVERLY HILLS

Just when you think television has had its fill of so-called dystopian dramas, along comes "The Lottery." Only this time, it isn't vampires, aliens or zombies threatening the survival of our species. It's a global fertility crisis.

"The Lottery" (10 p.m. Sunday, Lifetime) imagines a futuristic world in which women have mysteriously stopped bearing children. But after years of research, Dr. Alison Lennon (Marley Shelton) and her team of scientists have achieved a monumental breakthrough by fertilizing 100 human eggs. However, her victory is short-lived when the government takes over her lab.

To determine which women will carry the prized embryos to term, the president is persuaded to hold a national lottery. Soon, a battle breaks out for control of the embryos.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 17:  Actor Scott Bakula speaks onstage at the "NCIS: New Orleans" panel during the CBS Network portion of the 2014
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 17: Actor Scott Bakula speaks onstage at the "NCIS: New Orleans" panel during the CBS Network portion of the 2014 Summer Television Critics Association at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 10, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 17, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images) ( Frederick M. Brown )

"The Lottery" is darker and more provocative than a lot of Lifetime fare, but Shelton, the mother of two small children, believes the show will resonate with a big chunk of the network's audience because the idea of being unable to have "that intense and instinctual bond" with your children, or to "procreate and keep the human race going forward" is a powerful one.

"It's in our DNA," she told journalists at the TV critics press tour. "So to be a society that's stripped of that, and the implications of that, and the hopelessness and the despair, and the moral ambiguity ... is something our show really explores."


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On the other hand, it can be difficult to create an on-screen world devoid of children in a real-life world that is full of them. She recalled an on-location scene that had to be abruptly halted when a school bus teeming with kids drove by in the background.

"It's tricky," she said. "(But) it's amazing when you start to really think about what would be gone."

'NCIS' TAKES THE BIG EASY: Scott Bakula, star of the upcoming spinoff, "NCIS: New Orleans," knows that he and his cast mates have been handed a golden opportunity. Now, the challenge is just to not screw it up.

"We have big shoes to follow -- big footprints in the sand," he said, referring to "NCIS," prime time's most popular drama, and the show that will lead into his on CBS. " ... The hope is we can get an audience to invest with us ... The ball that's being handed off is a perfect spiral. But there's pressure that comes with that, no question about it. We have to earn our place. It's not a given."

Executive producer Gary Glasberg said that "NCIS: New Orleans" has added a new face to the roster. He's Rob Kerkovich ("Chasing Life"), who will be a series regular and play a morgue assistant. He joins a cast that also includes CCH Pounder, Lucas Black and Zoe McLellan.

Glasberg said there will be crossovers between the original show and "NCIS: New Orleans," but he offered few specifics.

"We're planning an episode where Gibbs (Mark Harmon) makes an appearance. Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette and David McCallum will be involved," he said. "That's the fun we have here with the interaction. As for when and how often, there's a lot that goes into planning and schedules."

WEDDED BLISS?: In its upcoming 12th and final season, "Two and a Half Men" will embrace a story line about gay adoption.

CBS Chairman Nina Tassler told reporters that the season will kick off with Walden (Ashton Kutcher) experiencing a major health scare that plunges him into an "existential crisis." In an effort to add more meaning to his life, he decides to adopt a child.

"He starts the process and he realizes it's very difficult to adopt a child as a single straight man," Tassler explained. The solution? Pose with Alan (Jon Cryer) as a gay couple in an effort to better his chances.

"Once and for all, he decides, 'I'm going to propose to Alan and we're going to get married and adopt a child as a gay couple,' " she said.

Tassler called the story line a "great ride" and said she thinks it makes a "very positive statement" about the state of gay rights in the country.

Contact Chuck Barney at cbarney@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/chuckbarney and Facebook.com/bayareanewsgroup.chuckbarney.