Trading places: UPN is getting better but the WB is slipping

Published: Friday, Sept. 10 2004 12:00 a.m. MDT

It's a big soap opera from the get-go. The death of the Carver family patriarch brings free-spirited David (Oliver Hudson) home for the funeral, where he learns he's been left in charge of the family resort. That doesn't sit well with his brother, Will (Anson Mount), who's been working while David was out playing. And leaves their mother (Barbara Hershey) to referee. Oh, and there's the Evil Family that wants to take over the Carver Empire.

While this is nominally from the same producers as "The O.C.," the guy who actually runs that show has nothing to do with this one. And this crowd apparently completely missed what makes "The O.C." work — humor and not taking yourself too seriously.

And why the folks at the WB think Oliver Hudson — whom they starred in the short-lived "Rock Star" and then dumped in "Dawson's Creek" — is star material is unfathomable.

"The Mountain" premieres Wednesday, Sept. 22.

Kevin Hill (Wednesdays, 8 p.m., UPN/Ch. 24) is sort of a remake of the movie "Baby Boom," with Taye Diggs stepping into the role played by Diane Keaton. Diggs plays the title character, a supremely self-assured 28-year-old entertainment lawyer who, when he's not tearing things up on the job, is the ultimate player with the ladies. His life takes a sudden turn when he learns his cousin has died and left a 6-month-old daughter to raise. He ends up in a different firm, staffed entirely by women (including one with whom he had a one-night stand), a gay nanny and a whole new outlook on life.

Diggs is very good as Kevin in this show, which shows a lot of promise. The premise is more than a bit familiar, but it's pulled off so well that it doesn't even matter.

"Kevin Hill" premieres Wednesday, Sept. 29.

Drew Carey's Green Screen Show (Thursdays, 7:30 p.m., Ch. 30, WB/Ch. 30) is basically "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" with special effects. Carey and a group of improvisational comics — Brad Sherwood, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops, Jeff Davis, Chip Esten, Jonathan Mangum, Julie Larson, Sean Masterson and Kathy Kinney — perform various spur-of-the-moment comedy sketches suggested by audience members in front of a "green screen." After they're done taping, computer wizards add various backgrounds, animation, etc. that fit in with — and, they hope, accentuate — the comedy.

Other than a few clips, this hasn't been made available to critics. But it would appear that if you liked "Whose Line," you'll like this.

Premieres Thursday, Oct. 7, at 7:30 p.m.

Commando Nanny (Fridays, 7:30 p.m., Ch. 30) is sort of loosely based on the life of "Survivor" and "Apprentice" producer Mark Burnett — a young ex-commando with the British Special Forces (Owain Yeoman) takes a job as a Beverly Hills nanny for a tough-minded tycoon (Gerald McRaney), his three kids and his much-younger second wife.

It's just as awful as it sounds. Conjecture is that Burnett must have promised the WB his next reality show in order to get this sickly sitcom on the air.

"Commando Nanny" has had more than its share of off-screen problems, too. Original lead Philip Winchester broke his foot and was replaced by Yeoman (who had a small role in "Troy"). And McRaney recently underwent surgery to remove a cancerous growth from his lung. He's expected to recover within a month, but his absence has shut down production.

Because of McRaney's illness, the premiere of "Commando Nanny" has been delayed until sometime later this fall.

E-mail: pierce@desnews.com