‘Clueless’ set to lead UPN’s Tuesday night

NEW YORK — UPN may be changing leaders, but the netlet will stay with its strategy aimed at young urban viewers.

Lucie Salhany, who plans to leave as chairman as soon as a successor is named, on Tuesday unveiled the weblet’s schedule to advertisers at the American Museum of Natural History along with Michael Sullivan, UPN’s president of entertainment.

After remaking the weblet in past seasons, UPN this time around is sticking to twin strategies of scheduling largely ethnic sitcoms early in the week and keeping its sci-fi package of “The Sentinel” and “Star Trek: Voyager” from 8 to 10 p.m. on Wednesday. In midseason, a package of sci-fi telefilms and a few theatricals will begin airing on Thursday, a fourth night, although UPN execs declined to provide details.

“We will continue focusing on edgy programs geared toward the young viewer,” Salhany said.

On Mondays, UPN at 9 will add “Good News,” from MTM Prods., about an urban gospel minister, surrounded by the returning “In the House” at 8, “Malcolm & Eddie” at 8:30 and “Sparks” at 9:30.

On Tuesdays, UPN will drop drama “The Burning Zone” and program four sitcoms, with “Moesha” returning in a new timeslot at 8:30, followed by “Hitz,” from Paramount and MTV Prods., about a pair of A&R execs in the music business, and “Head Over Heels” (Columbia TriStar Television), about two brothers running a Florida video-dating service. “Clueless,” the first-year ABC series based on Paramount’s feature film, moves to UPN to lead off the night at 8. ABC did not pick up the series for a second season.

Aside from “Burning Zone,” the new entries will replace “Homeboys in Outer Space” and “Goode Behavior.”

Ad buyers said “Clueless” could be a hit for UPN, even with half its ABC rating, while opinion was divided on the Thursday movie.

Overall, the presentation was “less-focused than the WB’s,” said one, but UPN still enjoys a distribution and ratings advantage.

And they wondered whether UPN was squandering one of its top series, “Moesha,” by moving it from 8 to 8:30, making room for “Clueless.”

Salhany defended the move, noting “it’s very important to flow the audience into 9 o’clock.” Hammocking “Moesha” between “Clueless” and the new “Hitz” will, she hopes, offer a bridge of male viewers to the new series. “It’s about building a block, not just a show, and gives us a chance to expand our reach on the night.”

Par parent Viacom, the 50% owner of UPN, thus has two new series on UPN’s schedule, with “Clueless” and “Hitz.”

Backup series include “Ruby,” from Columbia TriStar, with David Faustino (“Married … With Children”) and the voice of Whoopi Goldberg as a puppet Hollywood star; “Macio,” from QDE, starring the standup comedian; and “Veronica’s Video,” from Big Ticket Television, with Corbin Bernsen in a father-son team running a video-rental store.

UPN also said Tuesday that two-thirds of its roughly 105 primary affiliates have signed new pacts that will keep them broadcasting UPN programming until 2003 to 2005.

As reported, UPN is adding a one-hour weekday teen block, including Saban Entertainment’s “Sweet Valley High” and “Breaker High,” the latter about a high school on a cruise ship. A Sunday-morning block will program an hour each geared toward kid and teen audiences.

And UPN will enter the sports arena with a multiyear agreement to air the annual U.S. Open Professional Figure Skating Championships, beginning with four hours of coverage on Nov. 29 and 30.

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