Dean Valentine made headlines the week of October 3, 1997

VALENTINE’S DAY Good thing Dean Valentine likes a challenge. After protracted negotiations, the former president of Walt Disney Television has succeeded Lucie Salhany as president and CEO of the network most in need of an identity: UPN.

While UPN is ahead of rival The WB in the ratings race, industry observers say that’s thanks to a stronger affiliate base, not smart programming. Of its 10 prime-time shows, only Star Trek: Voyager, Moesha, and In the House have shown staying power — which adds up to an incompatible mix of urban and sci-fi audiences. And that’s a big problem for a net looking to expand to a fourth night; as BJK&E media analyst Steve Sternberg points out, ”You can’t sustain more than three nights appealing to a niche audience.”

The notoriously blunt Valentine is fully prepared to aggressively broaden UPN’s reach. ”The WB is doing it,” says Valentine, of that net’s more mainstream comedies (Alright Already, The Tom Show) and younger-skewing dramas (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). ”We’ll move in that direction too.”

Most pressing, Valentine believes, is challenging the notion that The WB is the hipper outlet to pitch shows to. ”We need to work on the reality,” he says, ”the perception will follow.” Hopefully changes in perception won’t include a return of Homeboys in Outer Space, which Valentine sold to UPN while at Disney.

AND SO ON Fans of The WB’s Unhappily Ever After are trained to suspend disbelief. After all, one of the costars is a stuffed rabbit voiced by Bobcat Goldthwait. So don’t be surprised this Sunday (Sept. 28) when WB programming exec Jordan Levin makes a cameo to bring Jennie Malloy (Stephanie Hodge) back from the dead. Malloy, who’d died in a ”tragic tanning-bed accident,” was going to appear as a ghost this season. As Levin will say in the episode, the dead-mom thing ”sounded okay but now it frightens us.”… Revenge can be sweet. In the Oct. 17 season premiere of Homicide: Life on the Street, when Bayliss (Kyle Secor) asks about Brodie (Max Perlich), he’s told that the departed videographer’s documentary of the unit has won an Emmy. ”An Emmy!” exclaims Bayliss. ”They give those things to anybody.” Anybody but Homicide, which was once again virtually ignored at last month’s awards.