The latest news from the TV beat

By Lynette Rice
July 13, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

‘Smackdown’ and Out

Can you smell when The Rock is missing? UPN certainly can. Smackdown! ratings are taking a beating this summer — a phenomenon largely blamed on The Rock’s (a.k.a. Dwayne Johnson) absence while he films The Scorpion King. But other factors could be giving the World Wrestling Federation a full nelson: Headliner Triple H is out for three or four months with a leg injury, and former hero ”Stone Cold” Steve Austin has made a strange turn to the dark side. So far this summer, 30 percent fewer young males are watching wrestling on UPN — which is already smarting from Vince McMahon’s XFL flop. ”It’s a star-driven business and The Rock is the biggest star in the WWF,” admits UPN CEO Dean Valentine. ”But Vince has a long history of reviving and freshening the genre, and I wouldn’t bet against him to do it again.” WWF marketing exec Jayson Bernstein is equally optimistic, saying ratings could heat up in July when showdowns begin between stars of the WWF and former rival league World Championship Wrestling, now a McMahon property. (The battles will culminate with the pay-per-view Invasion on July 22.) ”The Rock will be back,” promises Bernstein, though it’s not clear when. ”Until then, we have another opportunity to elevate the next WWF superstar.” Tossing Kurt Angle into a Fear Factor-style rat pit couldn’t hurt.

Gory ‘Days’

Though you won’t see any knife-toting maniacs in Scream masks, Kevin Williamson is planning a murder or two on Glory Days, his WB drama debuting in early 2002. The Dawson’s Creek creator had intended Glory to be an autobiographical series about a successful writer returning to his hometown, but The WB suits bristled over the possibility of yet another relationship-oriented drama. Their solution: Throw in a few dead bodies! ”With Scream, Kevin took a durable horror franchise that had grown stale and reinterpreted it in a postmodern way that worked for young audiences,” says WB president Jordan Levin. ”We believed that asking that same writer to resurrect the whodunit mysteries of years past was really worth exploring.” Williamson is certainly game: He’ll keep the hunky writer protagonist (Eddie Cahill) and his quirky mother (Frances Fisher), but Williamson is now turning the small town of Lake Glory, Maine, into a bizarre hamlet that features piranhas in the local lake and a nudist colony near the churchyard. ”The pilot’s gonna be scary. Someone will be murdered,” Williamson says. ”Every week, something weird happens in this town.” We can see the sweeps stunt now: A wisecracking teen girl saves the townsfolk from vampires.

AND SO ON… Survivor’s Keith Famie hopes to cook up a long-term deal with the Food Network. After recently hosting ”Taste the Adventure Week” for the cabler, Famie’s now in talks with the network about its picking up Adventures in Cooking — the show he had been doing for an NBC station in Detroit before he went Down Under last winter. ”Will I become a big star on the Food Network? Who knows,” admits Famie. ”The fact that I’ll get to do anything with them is really exciting.”