The United Paramount Network is still searching for its first big hit, and chances are it isn't going to find it this fall. The network wannabe is adding three new sitcoms to its schedule - four if you count "Clueless," the ABC castoff UPN has picked up for its Tuesday-night lineup.
The one change the pseudo-network is making is perhaps aiming at less of an urban audience. A year ago, all six of UPN's sitcoms featured predominantly African-American casts; this fall, that proportion has fallen to five out of eight. (And only one of the four new sitcoms, "Good News," fits that description.)UPN is also planning to expand to a fourth night, but not until January, when it will add a weekly sci-fi movie on Thursdays.
Here's a rundown of what's new on UPN, which is seen locally on KJZZ-Ch. 14:
GOOD NEWS (Mondays, 8 p.m.) is pretty much the old NBC sitcom "Amen" set to music. David Ramsey stars as Pastor David Randolph, a young man who takes over an urban church. But his youth - and the fact that the older man who was the assistant pastor was passed over for the job - splits the congregation and leaves him battling from Day 1. The cast includes women pining over David, and tough issues crop up in the first episode when one of David's parishoners announces that he's gay. All of this is accompanied by rousing gospel music in every episode.
Forecast: It isn't a great show, but it isn't bad. It should do at least as well as the rest of UPN's Monday-night lineup.
Debut date: Premiered Aug. 25
HITZ (Tuesdays, 8 p.m.) only has a few problems - it's offensive; it's mysogenistic, and it's not funny. Claude Brooks and Rick Gomez star as a couple of young music-company executives running in the fast lane and trying to hang onto their jobs. And their boss is a nightmare - Andrew Dice Clay plays pretty much his "Diceman" character - a loud, obnoxious, sexist, vulgar jerk. In addition to the strong anti-woman bent and the sexual content, "Hitz" is full of inappropriate "jokes" about drug abuse.
Forecast: UPN has low expectations, but this show is just so awful it probably won't live up to them.
HEAD OVER HEELS (Tuesdays, 8:30 p.m.) isn't funny, but it is offensive. Peter Dobson and Mitchell Whitfield star as mismatched brothers who run a Miami dating service - which provides opportunities for all sorts of tasteless, vulgar jokes about sexual performance, orgasms and bodily functions. The cast includes Eva LaRue as the "romance engineer"; Cindy Ambuehl as the scantily clad office manager; and Patrick Bristow ("Ellen") as the office celibate - although what sort of sexual activity he's foregoing remains undetermined.
Forecast: It's hard to imagine anything this bad becoming the breakout hit UPN is looking for. But then, UPN does have those low expectations.
Debut date: Premiered Aug. 26