UPN shakes up fall sked

Adding two new nights of programming

NEW YORK — UPN today will announce a major overhaul of its primetime schedule for fall, which features two new nights of programming but just five returning series and only three that remain in the same timeslots.

It’s the first schedule from UPN’s new CEO Dean Valentine, and the netlet is expected to add three new comedies, three new dramas and a movie. Three of the six new series will be produced by UPN’s parent studio, Paramount.

Gone from the fall lineup are Paramount’s “The Sentinel,” 20th Century Fox’s “Sparks” and “Good News,” and NBC Studios’ “In the House,” but a couple of the series could return midseason. UPN will also launch an animated series based on the “Dilbert” cartoon strip at midseason, and “Dilbert” will be featured prominently in the upfront presentation.

Spelling TV’s “The Love Boat” will return, but is changing course to 9 p.m. Friday, one of the netlet’s two new nights. The other new night is Thursday, which will feature the movie from 8 to 10 p.m.

All three of UPN’s new comedies will air back-to-back on Monday night, with one veteran, “Malcolm & Eddie,” filling out the Monday lineup at 9:30 p.m. Launching three new comedies in a row is a risky, but perhaps inevitable strategy when a nearly complete programming revamp is being attempted.

Anchoring Monday night at 8 p.m. is the new Columbia TriStar TV comedy “Guys Like Us,” which stars Maestro Harrell as a kid whose brother takes care of him. At 8:30 p.m. comes the new comedy “DiResta” from Paramount Network TV, which is about the life of a transit cop and his family. The two family comedies will compete against sitcoms on CBS and NBC, “7th Heaven” on the WB and football on ABC.

At 9 p.m. Monday, UPN will launch the comedy “The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer,” also from Paramount, which is a period satire about the head of the kitchen at the Lincoln White House. “Malcolm & Eddie,” which has been airing Tuesday nights, follows.

UPN will keep its Tuesday 8-9 p.m. block intact, with “Moesha” returning at 8 p.m. and “Clueless” returning at 8:30. The netlet will launch the new Columbia TriStar TV/Mandalay drama “Mercy Point” at 9 p.m. It stars Joe Morton as a doctor on a space station.

On Wednesday at 8 p.m., UPN will launch another Paramount drama called “Seven Days,” which stars Jonathan LaPaglia as a CIA agent sent back in time. “Star Trek: Voyager” stays at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

On Thursday night the netlet will launch its “Way Out There” movie, with 22 titles combining sci-fi, fantasy and adventure.

On Friday nights, the new Atlantis drama “Legacy” will compete at 8 p.m. against the new John Wells family drama “Trinity” on NBC and comedy or reality shows on the other networks. While the Wells family drama is set in New York, though, “Legacy” is set on a Kentucky horse ranch after the Civil War. (With “Desmond Pfeiffer,” that means two new UPN series are set around the time of the Civil War.)

At 9 p.m., “The Love Boat: The Next Wave” will compete against Fox’s “Millennium,” NBC’s “Dateline,” CBS’ new drama “Buddy Faro” and ABC comedies.

UPN is making some big changes at a time when most of the other webs are slowing down the pace of change. Out of UPN’s five nights of programming next season, not a single one will return intact, and four of the five will lead off the night at 8 p.m. with new programming.

The schedule is fairly balanced between comedies (six) and dramas (five). Most of the other webs skew heavily toward either comedies or dramas, but UPN is trying to move away from niche programming and target a broad audience.