In the show’s vernacular, the sitcom “Clueless” is getting, like, totally Shawshanked.
The UPN network will televise the teen comedy during the coming season, after its first year ran on ABC. And though ABC opted not to renew “Clueless,” the network is still playing hardball as to its timetable in releasing the series.
Specifically, UPN wants to get a jump on the major networks (and capitalize on their summer repeats) by introducing most of its prime-time lineup in August, about a month before the season officially begins; ABC, however, is hanging on to “Clueless” through the duration of its contract, meaning that UPN won’t be able to offer new episodes until late September.
Although it may sound petty, executives do have reason to be sensitive about series migrating to other networks, which have become increasingly aggressive about pilfering shows from rivals.
ABC has been especially prone to such defections, losing three shows to rivals in the fall. CBS will build a night of comedy around two long-running ABC shows, “Family Matters” and “Step by Step,” competing directly with ABC’s “TGIF” Friday lineup featuring “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and “Boy Meets World.”
NBC also acquired “The Jeff Foxworthy Show” and “The Naked Truth” a year ago after each ran on ABC, though thus far these moves have achieved limited success. “Foxworthy,” for example, has been canceled, while “Naked Truth,” which stars Tea Leoni, is undergoing another creative overhaul before moving to Mondays in the fall.
Even if such gambits fail after the move, the original network resents having invested promotional time in creating awareness for series that later compete with them for viewers. UPN previously corralled an NBC stray, “In the House,” and the WB network did the same with the now-canceled Lawrence brothers sitcom “Brotherly Love.”
Adapted from the Paramount movie, “Clueless” will become a linchpin of UPN’s prime-time lineup next season, airing at 8 p.m. Tuesdays before the network’s most popular comedy, “Moesha.”
In its first year, “Clueless” became one of TV’s most-watched programs among teenagers but didn’t have much appeal beyond that age group. Still, more than 13 million people tuned in during an average week and for UPN, even half that audience would surpass its highest-rated show, “Star Trek: Voyager.”
According to UPN, the network plans to roll out next season’s programs on a staggered basis and will simply introduce “Clueless” toward the end of that cycle. “It’s not going to impact us,” a spokeswoman said.
ABC, meanwhile, said the network plans to continue airing repeats of the comedy through the summer.
“Shawshank,” by the way, in “Clueless"-speak, refers to the prison film “The Shawshank Redemption.” Shawshanked, then, means to be treated harshly.