UPN Reinvents Itself Without Sci-FiBy Michelle
July 31, 2005 - 3:43 PM
After ten years on the air, with its top show rated 127th overall out of 200 network series, UPN is attempting to reinvent itself this fall after having cancelled Star Trek: Enterprise, the last series from the franchise that was once the network's flagship.
"While UPN and the WB have so far shown little inclination to grow up, next season both networks are taking significant steps in an effort to attract more mainstream audiences," noted U Daily News, which observed that the highest-rated show on UPN last season was America's Next Top Model, with 5.13 million viewers. By contrast, Star Trek: Voyager brought in 12.1 million average viewers its first season, which was also the network's inaugural season.
"They had an advantage when they launched - they had the 'Star Trek' franchise, and automatically had an audience," Mediaweek's Marc Berman observed to U. "But they squandered it. They put a lot of crap on - that hurt them." Now UPN entertainment president Dawn Ostroff, who brought on the critically acclaimed Veronica Mars and Kevin Hill, has made the network "respectable." Next season the network will present two additional shows aimed at young women, Sex, Love & Secrets and Love, Inc., as well as a show targeted at the network's other long-time audience, African-American viewers, with the potential for wide appeal: Everybody Hates Chris, comedian Chris Rock's autobiographical comedy.
What UPN will not have for the first time since it began broadcasting is science fiction. At a time when the success of Lost on ABC has opened the door for several new genre series, including CBS' Threshold and NBC's Surface. The HUB observes that in becoming the most diverse network on television - "of UPN's 11 shows this fall (not counting wrestling), eight have blacks in a lead role; two others have casts that are neatly split between black and white" - UPN has dropped its genre programming.
"This is the first time...that every other network has a sci-fi show except UPN," Ostroff said. "We always talk about being multi-ethnic." Despite the strong critical reception for Veronica Mars and Kevin Hill, however, the network's ratings still lag well below CBS, ABC, NBC and FOX.
The Futon Critic reports that Everybody Hates Chris is receiving critical acclaim for UPN: "It's already been pegged as 'the next great comedy' by the nation's critics and it's hard to disagree." The series, which will air on competitive Thursday nights at 8 p.m. this fall, is "basically an urban take on The Wonder Years" set in the 1980s in Brooklyn. "It really is light years ahead of anything the network has tried before. But even if it wasn't on UPN, it's still one of the genre's best offerings in recent memory," notes the Futon Critic.