Boys-- UPN's got 'em; WB wants 'em. So both are right now stockpiling ammo with which to rumble for young male viewers. Included in the arsenal are new series about hip-hop bounty hunters, Vegas dancers, trucks and, of course, faux wrestlers.
"If it has high testosterone, we'll air it," UPN chief Dean Valentine told The Reporters Who Cover Television at the winter press tour here.
He wasn't kidding. His network, which has sucked up plenty of the young male viewers this season with its Thursday "WWF Smackdown!," is planning a monster truck rally special for this February's sweeps called "Monster Trux 2000: The New Thrillennium."
If successful, it will be turned into a series in which characters and story lines will be developed, a la "Smackdown!" You know--thick-necked good-guy trucks, slimy evil trucks, and cheap chick trucks with really big headlights.
Then there's "Hip-Hop Bounty Hunters," about which UPN's programming chief Tom Nunan said the title speaks for itself--and about which I say: The less said, the better I'm going to feel about covering television.
Then there's "I Spike," a new UPN series in development about female spies who pose as a professional volleyball team. Oh, that old story.
On a less repulsive front, the very talented Hugh Wilson and Tim Reid are developing a series for UPN called "The Contender." It's about an 18-year-old's quest to become the next heavyweight champion of the world.
And UPN will have such reality specials as "I Dare You! The Ultimate Challenge." The network is positively rushing into territory that even Fox now views as schlockola, UPN execs said Sunday, even though TRWCT gag on the stuff.
"When I was growing up," Valentine reminisced, "I remember there was a whole big thing about how terrible comics books were. Somehow, in every generation, whatever young guys seem to like is what's bad for you. And I'm sure this generation is no different than any other.
"We are dedicated to talking to the audience that we said we would talk to, and we will talk to them in whatever way we can reach them and make contact with them," he said.
Meanwhile, the Wanna Be network--a k a the young chick network--has this season watched its healthy lead over UPN dwindle and vanish. So the feisty folks at the soon-to-be-AOL- owned net are going to try their darndest to pry young guys away from "Smackdown!" and over to WB.
To that end, Wanna Be is developing a comedy starring that award winning thespian Nikki Cox, of "Unhappily Ever After" fame, who will now play a sort of dancer in Las Vegas who's newly wed to an aspiring wrestler--a homage, no doubt, to "Smackdown!"
It's from Bruce Helford--the guy who for several seasons has been perfecting his family jewels joke on "Drew Carey" and "Norm."
And, every week, the show will open with a dance, starring Cox.
Down, boys, down!
WB has also snagged John Wells's next drama series, about which nothing is known but that's still a pretty big piece of news, given that he's the man behind the most watched series in TV history, "ER." Then, there's a planned "Route 66" update, called "Going to California," from Scott Rosenberg, whose credits include "Con Air" and "Armageddon."
Guy stuff all. But, maybe most important, WB has promised to return to its schedule:
Keri Russell's hair.
That's right, the "Felicity" star has promised to grow back her golden mane, giving young men and women a reason to watch that drama, which has slumped in the ratings this season despite being moved to Sunday night, which is America's television watching-est night of the week.
"Nobody is cutting their hair again on our network," said WB programming chief Susanne Daniels.
"The e-mail was so overwhelmingly negative on that haircut," she added. "Do I think it affected the show on some level? Yeah, I do."
The Russell hair, WB CEO Jamie Kellner explained, "was distinctive. It was part of what created the uniqueness" of the show.
"I think we cut off our distinctiveness a little bit," he said.
I wanna come home!
CAPTION: The long and the short of it: Keri Russell's tresses will return to a starring role in "Felicity," WB execs promise.