WB seeks ‘Young’ blood

Web making Coca-Cola connection

The WB network is near an eight-episode commitment to Columbia-TriStar’s “Young Americans,” a Steven Antin-created drama that will use a trick or two right out of the playbook Fox used when that web corralled the Clearasil set the way the WB does now: The series will launch during the summer, hedge its bets by planting a character on the last three season-ending episodes of “Dawson’s Creek” and incorporate Coca-Cola as a major sponsor.

“Young Americans” is a soap revolving around a private boys boarding school. While webs usually avoid large commitments to summer series because ad rates and viewership are lower, the WB is hedging its investment by closing in on a deal with Coke to provide both revenue and promo opportunities for the show and its young cast. The aim is to gain a ratings foothold and an advantage over the swarm of new youth-oriented shows being readied for the fall 2000 season.

Strategy session

Fox used the summer months to gain a foothold early in the run of “Beverly Hills, 90210” and launched “Melrose Place” by planting a character on “90210.” Like most WB-hatched series, “Young Americans” will be populated by a cast of gorgeous youths. The pilot stars Kate Bosworth, who just wrapped the Denzel Washington starrer “Remember the Titans”; Rodney Scott, who played David Cassidy in the recent Partridge Family telepic; Mark Famiglietti, a longtime cast member on the Saturday morning TNBC skein “Hang Time”; Ian Somerhalder, a billboard fixture for Guess Jeans; and Kate Moennig, a New York model.

The drama’s creator, Steven Antin, will exec produce with Mandalay TV’s Joe Voci and Scott Sanders. A somewhat recognizable face himself, Antin is a former actor whose credits range from “NYPD Blue,” on which he had a recurring role, to the Jodie Foster starrer “The Accused,” in which he played one of the pool-table rapists. He also starred in “The Last American Virgin” and “Inside Monkey Zetterland,” the latter of which he also scripted.

Antic scripting

Since trading acting for scripting aspirations, Antin has become prolific. He penned the remake of “Gloria,” and though “Young Americans” is his first series pickup, he also recently completed “The Magnificent Darlings,” a pilot script about a dysfunctional family from Manhattan’s West Village for FBC through Col/TriStar.

On the feature side, he’s writing “The Hit Factory,” about the current boy band phenomenon, for Columbia and producer Larry Mark, and for Fox 2000 he’s penning the comic pitch “Papi Chulo,” about a handsome Latino who is engaged to three Latinas, all of whom converge on him one fateful weekend.

The net originally ordered “Young Americans” as a pilot for the 1999-2000 season (Daily Variety, Feb. 5), and a WB spokesman cautioned that the summer bow was not a done deal. “Although we have tremendous enthusiasm for this project, there still remain major deal points between Columbia/TriStar Television and the WB yet to be settled,” a Frog web spokesman said.

Summer school

Antin was buoyant over the prospect of a summer bow for a series that will use the boys’ boarding school, a nearby girls’ boarding school and kids from a local town to create teenage tension.

Helene Michaels, president of network production for Col/TriStar, “had the idea to dovetail the show into ‘Dawson’s Creek,’ and it seemed a natural,” Antin said. “I like that we’re not just one of six or seven shows being added to the fall schedule, as happens with the typical pilot season. This is potentially a really special situation to pick up sponsors, and get a lot of attention. It’s incredibly impactful to be tied into a show like ‘Dawson’s Creek,’ which will help teenagers discover the show and have something original to watch during the summer.”

Antin doesn’t miss acting, and hopes to put enough distance between himself and his former career to minimize the inevitable moment when a network exec recognizes him.

“I actually was sitting in people’s offices recently, and somebody said, ‘Hey, I saw you on TV last night committing rape,” Antin lamented. “It was pretty horrifying.”

He is repped by ICM’s Doug Maclaren, Diane Frazier and Matt Solo, and attorneys Steve Warren and Ken Richmond.