Actioners 'Freedom,' 'Level' make up new Friday night lineup

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NEW YORK — Pumped by this season’s “Smackdown!”-fueled success, UPN will pack even more testosterone into its primetime sked next fall. In addition, the netlet has offered safe harbor to ABC’s TGIF castoff “The Hughleys.”

Net today will announce a fall 2000 grid highlighted by a new Friday-night lineup featuring two new male-friendly actioners, the Warner Bros. TV/Joel Silver-produced “Freedom,” which boasts plenty of “Matrix”-like special effects, and Paramount’s “Level Nine,” the Internet crime drama from producer John Sacret Young.

The 2-year-old Friday-movie franchise will shift to Tuesdays, allowing UPN to use Thursday’s “WWF Smackdown!” to hype its new high-concept actioners. UPN is talking to Blockbuster about keeping the movie a branded block, though for now, the net is calling the weekly event “UPN’s Night at the Movies.”

Home for the ‘Hughleys’

UPN has also picked up the critically praised ABC laffer “The Hughleys” (Greenblatt-Janollari), which will be added to the net’s Monday sitcom block. Alphabet dropped the D.L. Hughley family comedy when it decided to abandon the long-running ABC TGIF block of kid-focused laffers.

“The Hughleys” will air Mondays at 9 p.m., leading in to UPN’s only new comedy, “Girlfriends” (Par/Grammnet Prods.). “Frasier” star Kelsey Grammer is one of the exec producers of the “Living Single”-like show about four black female friends.

Overall, UPN is adding just three new hours of programming to its lineup (including “The Hughleys”) vs. the 4½ hours of new fare UPN ordered up a year ago.

The relatively small change is unsurprising given the huge success the net has had this season: Overall viewership is up more than 35% thanks to “Smackdown!” and ratings gains on Monday and Wednesday nights.

For midseason, UPN execs have ordered the Aaron Spelling haunted-hospital hour “All Souls” and the “Men in Black”-like actioner “Special Unit 2.”

On the comedy front, net has greenlit the sketch comedy series “Out of Bounds” (ATG) and, as first reported by Variety.com last week, the toon comedy “Gary and Mike” (Big Ticket).

As part of UPN’s deal to acquire the latter skein from Fox Broadcasting Co., UPN agreed to pick up two reality specs the net no longer wants: Nash Entertainment’s “Cheating Spouses” and “World’s Nastiest Neighbors.”

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