Net sees bright side with Monday block of hip, urban laffers

UPN is hoping to laugh its way out of a ratings funk.

Last year was a difficult one for the netlet, with “Enterprise” taking a Nielsen dive and several new dramas failing to connect with auds. What’s more, another anchor skein — “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” — came to a close.

The biggest bright side for UPN, however, was the net’s Monday block of hip, young urban laffers. So it’s no surprise that the net will start this season by doubling its comedy quotient, adding another four sitcoms to its lineup — three of them on Tuesdays.

“Monday night is a very strong night for us,” says UPN Entertainment prexy Dawn Ostroff. “So since the viewers are there on Monday night, we wanted to bring them into Tuesday night. And we were very happy with our development.”

UPN’s best bets for comedy success are a Monday night half-hour starring hip-hop star Eve and Tuesday’s “All of Us,” which is based on Will Smith’s own familial experience — a fact UPN has been touting endlessly in promos.

It’s a good time for UPN to be aiming for laughs on Tuesdays. Most of the other nets are drama heavy on the night, and those with laffers are either aiming for a different audience (ABC) or struggling to launch new comedies of their own (NBC.)

UPN also hopes this year’s sked will flow better, with urban comedies on Monday leading into more male-skewing comedies on Tuesday, and the latter laffers promoting testosterone-pumped Wednesday skeins such as “Enterprise” and “Jake 2.0″ on Wednesday.

Thursday remains devoted to “WWE Smackdown!” while movies continue to air on Friday.

“Clearly we’re looking at shows that will be able to attract the largest audience that we can while also taking Monday into Tuesday and Tuesday into Wednesday,” Ostroff says.

Exec is also hoping that new drama “Jake 2.0″ can translate some positive preseason buzz into solid Nielsen numbers. The new drama’s success will at least partially depend on how successful the net is at relaunching “Enterprise,” the three-year-old “Star Trek” skein that’s been rapidly losing favor with Trekkers.

Ostroff is confident “Enterprise” will, at the very least, be in a better creative place this fall — much like UPN overall. And while UPN execs are as upbeat as they’ve been in years about the net’s outlook, Leslie Moonves — the CBS topper who also oversees UPN — is careful not to predict too rapid a rebound.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” he says. “Anybody who thinks they can (turn around) a network in one year only has to look at ABC.”

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