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Dramatic developments driving UPN’s 2004 slate

'Nightingale,' 'Veronica' among prod'ns on sked

UPN is betting on crime — and some seasoned scribe-producers — as it puts the finishing touches on its drama development for fall 2004.

Producers Barry Josephson, Denise Di Novi and Aaron Spelling, along with scribes J.F. Lawton (“Under Siege”) and Rob Thomas (“Cupid”), are working on projects for the netlet. Roughly two dozen drama scripts are in development, according to UPN Entertainment prexy Dawn Ostroff, who said she remains open to the idea of launching original scripted programming on Fridays next year.

Ostroff said her development philosophy remains the same as it was last year: “Either it’s got to be something different that’s not on TV right now, or we have to come up with a new twist on a concept that will make some noise.”

Drama development, headed by recently tapped senior VP Maggie Murphy, is key for UPN since the net’s comedies are thriving. Its Monday laffer block continues to perform well, while new Tuesday laffer “All About Us” is one of the new season’s success stories.

By contrast, new hour “Jake 2.0” hasn’t yet found its aud, while “Star Trek: Enterprise” — despite some minor growth in recent weeks — remains a disappointment.

UPN seems committed to finding its own take on “CSI” or “Law & Order,” developing a number of hours with crime or detective themes — although many of the hours defy easy classification as crime dramas. Instead, execs say the goal is to broaden out many of the scripts to include themes beyond a simple whodunit.

Many of the net’s drama projects, including some previously announced hours like “Beck and Call,” feature multigenerational characters or sudsy themes.

One of the more intriguing projects is the untitled Lawton hour, which will blend live-action and anime (think “Kill Bill”) to tell the story of two young female actresses working on a Saturday morning actioner geared toward kids. The twist: The costumes they wear for the show actually give them superhuman powers, which they use to fight evil, natch.

Anime segs used

Anime segs will be used to visualize fight and action scenes, Ostroff said, noting the two women will be “closeted superheroes” after the producers of the fake kiddie show order them not to use their newfound powers — due to insurance issues.

In addition to all three “Under Siege” pics, Lawton also wrote Julia Roberts starrer “Pretty Woman.”

Another supernatural-themed actioner is “Nightingale,” which revolves around a woman who’s guided by unseen forces to fight evil at night — but has no memory of doing so once the sun rises. Brandon Camp and Mike Thompson, the duo behind last season’s Fox drama “John Doe,” are writing and exec producing via Sony Pictures Television.

Josephson (“Like Mike,” “The Tick”) is teamed with feature scribe-helmer Don Michael Paul (“Half Past Dead”) for an ensemble cop drama about young recruits working undercover on the streets of L.A. Paul will write the pilot script, with Josephson exec producing the project.

Immigrant war hero

Spelling-based Di Novi is exec producing “The American,” an hour about a Guatemalan immigrant who became a war hero while fighting in Iraq. He returns to the U.S., is granted citizenship and becomes a private eye to assist the defenseless.

Juan Carlos Coto is writing the pilot, which Di Novi and Spelling will exec produce.

Another private eye drama in the works is the Thomas-penned and -produced “Veronica Mars,” about a spoiled teen girl who reunites with her estranged father. Dad’s down on his luck, and she helps with his detective agency, which is based on a town with many dark secrets.

UPN also has picked up a script from scribe Justin Tanner. Hourlong dramedy focuses on a man whose psychic abilities force him to deal with the unresolved problems of dead people.

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