Networks gearing up for the most competitive fall-season launch in memory are resorting to some unusual tactics to hype awareness of their shows.

“Central Park West,” the linchpin of CBS’ quest for younger viewers, is the subject of unprecedented support, including the Eye web’s first theatrical trailer, a college tour, promo spots on cable nets and a board game featured in a two-page ad running in the Sept. 11 New York Times.

The Gotham-produced show also has plastered cast members on the entire sides and top of three New York buses, and has its own home page on CBS’ Internet web site, where browsers can click on characters’ faces to get acquainted with their storylines and romantic entanglements. The network isn’t bashful with references to creator Darren Star’s connection to another beautiful-people soap, Fox’s “Melrose Place.”

“This is a much younger, urban-oriented CBS,” explains George Schweitzer, marketing exec VP, of the expansive strategy. “These are faces we haven’t had.”

Over at ABC, “Murder One,” facing formidable odds against NBC’s “ER” on Thursday nights, is touted in in-flight promos on Delta Airlines and in Times Square, where 300 spots will run this week on Sony’s Jumbotron.

Entertainment Weekly is also sponsoring screenings of the eagerly awaited show’s pilot in several cities, where cameras will record viewer testimonials for later airing. And cast members of the Steven Bochco produced drama are decked out in Armani in an eight-page fashion spread in the new Vanity Fair hitting newsstands this week.

“Murder One” also hopes to secure viewer loyalty with airings on three consecutive Tuesdays in “NYPD Blue’s” timeslot, before it moves up against the hospital juggernaut, says Chris Carlisle, ABC’s VP of marketing.

“When you go up against a big gun like this, you have to take it seriously, and pull out all the stops.”

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