TV News: Empire, HBO, Animals, Gotham

20th Century Fox has officially announced a September 23rd premiere date for the second season of its mega-rating hip hop soap opera “Empire”.

Comedian Chris Rock, R&B superstar Alicia Keys and rocker Lenny Kravitz have all signed on for guest-starring roles during the second season which will expand from twelve to eighteen episodes. With that expansion though comes a winter break that will split the season. [Source: TV Line]

HBO has confirmed that its HBO Now service, the premium cable programmer’s standalone Internet TV service, will soon be available on Google Play store. Previously available only through Apple TV and Cablevision Systems, the exclusivity window for those outlets seems to be finishing up with Google senior VP Sundar Pichai making this announcement at the Google I/O event Thursday in San Francisco. [Source: Engadget]

HBO has acquired worldwide rights to the first batch of episodes of the Mark and Jay Duplass-produced TV series “Animals” and has given the half-hour series an order for a second season.

The project is a series of animated shorts revolving around downtrodden creatures like pigeons and rats living in New York City. The first two episodes screened this year at Sundance and the first season is targeting a 2016 debut on the premium cable network. [Source: Variety]

Following in the wake of Morena Baccarin as Dr. Leslie Tompkins and Nicholas D’Agosto as Harvey Dent, another recurring guest star from the first season of FOX’s Batman prequel series “Gotham” is getting an upgrade to regular status.

Chris Chalk, who plays a young Lucius Fox in the series, will reportedly have a more vital role next season and so has become a series regular. The character will mostly be involved in scenes with Bruce and will be partly responsible for imbuing him with technical and scientific skills. [Source: TV Line]

Untitled Drama (aka. Patient Zero)
NBC and Sky have given a ten-episode, straight-to-series order for an untitled pandemic drama series from “The Imitation Game” scribe Graham Moore and “World War Z” director Marc Forster.

The story is described as a candid look at an outbreak. One story follows a woman who finds herself and her loved ones in the center of an epidemic with global consequences. Another has an FBI agent investigating a seemingly unrelated terrorist attack that leads him to the brink of madness. [Source: Deadline]