The latest news from the TV beat

By Lynette Rice and William Keck
June 22, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Censor and Sensibility

After the 1999 debut of ”Shasta McNasty,” we suspected that UPN may have had no standards, but who knew they actually had no standards and practices? The home of ”Smackdown!” and now ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is the only broadcast net without an official smut patrol (even rival WB has seven folks keeping tabs on any untoward hibidy-dibidy). Although the FCC has no specific rules requiring nets to police content, most do it anyway. ”It goes back to radio,” says NBC’s Alan Wurtzel, who oversees S&P at the Peacock. ”It reflects an attempt to show that we are able to do our own monitoring…without requiring the government to get into First Amendment issues. That remains to this day.” UPN claims it has eight people keeping a watchful eye, from programming execs to CEO Dean Valentine. (Guess they missed last spring’s episode of the animated series ”Gary & Mike,” in which a character had sex with his best friend’s stepdaughter.) But even without an S&P division, producers on UPN’s ”The Hughleys” still feel like they can push only so far. ”We can’t [get away with just] anything,” admits exec producer David Janollari, who says that D.L. Hughley is the king of the double entendre. ”They do come to us episode by episode and weigh in on standards. Nine times out of 10, they are right.” Hey, that’s a first.

Inside Trek

Speaking of UPN, Trekkies set their phasers to ”ticked off” after seeing the promo for the franchise’s new series, ”Enterprise.” Handicapped by a lack of footage from the fall show (production just started in May), UPN culled together a spot featuring characters of Trek past — Janeway, Picard, Spock, and Kirk — which aired during ”Star Trek: Voyager”’s May 23 finale. Trouble is, the teaser left out ”Deep Space Nine”’s Captain Sisko (played by African-American actor Avery Brooks), leading some to accuse UPN of racism. One fan, who calls himself ”FederationPolicyAdvisor,” posted this message on ”I was offended and I do believe their decision sent an unintentional message to the fans of ‘DS9’ and to those who appreciated the diverse casting of the series.” UPN execs were initially worried about Sisko’s recognizability (”DS9” was the least watched syndicated Trek show), but decided to re-dock the ”Enterprise” spot for repairs. ”We listened to their concerns and updated the promo to include Sisko,” says rep Joanna Lowry.

AND SO ON… Paula Abdul is teaming with MTV to produce and star in a half-hour drama called ”Skirts.” Casting is under way for the pilot, in which Abdul plays a cheerleading coach. ”It’s ‘The White Shadow’ meets the sexiness of ‘Baywatch’ with the drama of ‘Melrose Place,”’ promises Abdul, who adds that ”Skirts” will feature plenty of song and dance without echoing ”Fame.” ”The music’s going to be natural when the girls are performing or rehearsing. No one’s jumping up on cars and breaking into song.”