Memo to Les: End UPN as we know it

Joe's modest proposal: the all-reality web

If Leslie Moonves really wants to save UPN, he needs to kill it.

After eight years of exec upheaval and shifting identities, it’s clear the netlet in its present form has little shot of breaking through.

“Buffy” didn’t do it. Rave reviews for hip-hop drama “Platinum” fell on deaf ears.

Even if entertainment chief Dawn Ostroff’s first real programming lineup gets all A’s from advertisers, it won’t be enough to put the netlet on the map with viewers.

Moonves should simply turn UPN into broadcast TV’s first unscripted web and put MTV honcho Brian Graden in charge.

The success of MTV’s cheap, unscripted series — from “The Real World” to “The Osbournes” to “Punk’d” — proves there’s a steady audience for untraditional fare.

Why settle for the script concepts and stars other nets have rejected? By going unscripted, the netlet could become the destination for reality producers who want to take chances but want a bigger aud than MTV can deliver.

And with Graden in charge, Moonves would get an exec who knows how to find new talent and ideas that grab viewers’ attention with a minimum of off-net promotion.

The notion of running UPN without a script has plenty of pitfalls. But given that UPN is basically on life support right now, there’s not much to lose.

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