Fighting with fellow fledgling the WB to become the nation's No. 5 network, UPN announced Monday that it's getting bigger.
That's right, UPN--which, along with the WB, regularly fills the No. 90-100 Neilsen rankings with its fare--plans to add Thursday and Friday nights to its current Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday programming schedule beginning this fall.
"It's in our interest in an incredibly competitive environment to be a full-service broadcast network and to get to a full seven nights as quickly as possible," UPN chief Dean Valentine tells Daily Variety. "It certainly will be apparent that the UPN that appears in September and October is a very, very different UPN than the one that's been around for the past 3 1/2 years."
As the for the new nights, Valentine says there's opportunity with NBC's Seinfeld-less "Must-See" Thursdays and ABC's eroding "TGIF" Friday lineup.
UPN won't decide until next month which programs will be plugged into those nights, but it is believed the animated comedy Dilbert--which my not be ready until January--could eventually be one of them. And the revamped Love Boat, which debuts tonight, could end up anchoring one of those nights, too, if it does well enough on Mondays
The net is also trying to sell the Robert Stack-esque Search for Justice with Fred Goldman, airing Wednesday night at 8 p.m. The show, which will spotlight judicial-system blunders, could be parlayed into a weekly series if it's successful enough.
In any case, UPN execs are looking for a hit, any hit, besides Star Trek: Voyager--so far, the only moderately successful show among a network jammed with misses. (UPN currently ranks in sixth place.)
But while UPN aggressively tries to make itself over, some affiliates are skeptical. Why try to program two additional nights, when you can't even do three successfully?
Says an optimistic Valentine to the naysayers: "The message must be strong...A network can change an entire schedule if it replaces the entire schedule with Seinfeld and ER. If you have 21 hours of The Tom Arnold Show [a failed WB program], my guess is you're going to fail."