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UPN Tries to Lure African Americans

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The UPN network on Thursday confirmed a fall prime-time schedule featuring six African American comedies and three one-hour dramas that includes moving its highest-rated program, “Star Trek: Voyager,” to 9 p.m. Wednesdays.

The revised lineup will seek to appeal to a minority audience perceived to be underserved elsewhere and to men, who tend to favor action shows.

Part of the Monday night strategy involves going after viewers of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” which is ending its six-season run on NBC. In addition to “In the House,” which UPN acquired from NBC, “Fresh Prince” co-star James Avery will appear in “Sparks, Sparks and Sparks,” a new comedy set in a law firm. That show also stars Robin Givens.

The other new shows are “Homeboys in Outer Space,” a 23rd century sitcom with stand-up comic Flex and Mel Jackson; “Malcolm & Eddie,” a buddy comedy starring Malcolm-Jamal Warner and comic Eddie Griffin; “Goode Behavior,” featuring Sherman Hemsley as an ex-con dad and “Dream On’s” Dorien Wilson as his son; and “The Burning Zone,” a drama about an elite group that combats deadly viruses.

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Backup series include a rare Latino comedy, “An American Family,” plus sitcoms featuring Julia Duffy and Dawnn Lewis and a comedy produced by filmmaker Reginald Hudlin.

The WB Network also will air comedies featuring African American casts from 8-9 p.m. Monday, setting up a scenario where five networks--including CBS, NBC and possibly Fox, which has flirted with moving “Melrose Place"--could all offer sitcoms in that hour. In that event, WB might alter its announced lineup, shifting its prime-time soap “Savannah” so it wouldn’t have to compete head-to-head with Fox’s serial. Both are from producer Aaron Spelling.

UPN will also program its first miniseries next season, “Shaka,” a four-hour sequel to “Shaka Zulu.” Executives said they plan to add a fourth night of programming in 1997.

Dropped from the UPN lineup will be “Nowhere Man,” “Swift Justice,” “Minor Adjustments” and “Paranormal Borderline.”

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Here’s UPN’s fall schedule:

* Monday: “In the House,” “Malcolm & Eddie,” “Goode Behavior,” “Sparks, Sparks and Sparks.”

* Tuesday: “Moesha,” “Homeboys in Outer Space,” “The Burning Zone.”

* Wednesday: “The Sentinel,” “Star Trek: Voyager.”


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