Filming month away for UPN drama

L.a. Tv

January 17, 2000|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

LOS ANGELES -- Filming is scheduled to begin Feb. 14 in Baltimore on the pilot for a new network drama from Emmy-Award-winning producers Hugh Wilson and Tim Reid, according to Tom Nunan, president of entertainment at UPN.

But he also said the role of the lead character, an 18-year-old boxer, has yet to be cast, which could push back the start date.

"If we don't get the right lead, there's no reason to start filming," Nunan told reporters here on the Winter Press Tour yesterday. "So, that could delay things."

While recognizing making pilots can be problematical, Paul McGuire, a UPN vice president, said, "... as it stands today, they still plan to start Feb. 14 in Baltimore."

Wilson won one of several Emmys for his writing on the CBS series, "Frank's Place," which starred Reid, but he may be best known as the creator of "WKRP in Cincinnati," which also featured Reid.

Most of the crew working on the hourlong pilot will be from Baltimore, Wilson told The Sun in an earlier interview.

`The Beat'

UPN unveiled its new drama from Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson, "The Beat." The series centers on the lives of two young police officers in New York City.

Fontana and Levinson told critics they had finished 12 of 13 episodes. The four made available to critics showed Levinson and Fontana taking the innovative visual style they pioneered in "Homicide: Life on the Street" even further. "The Beat" mixes film and videotape, using new digital cameras that "can be held in the palm of your hand," said Levinson.

The structure of "Beat" will be different, too, using a prologue, epilogue and three act structure.

The episodes will air this spring, but no start date has yet been set.

Drug issue

Meanwhile, there were more contradictory remarks over the weekend on whether the White House's Office of National Drug Policy has been overtly involved in changing scripts of network TV programs to include anti-drug messages.

Pat Fili-Krushnel, president of ABC, told critics Saturday that last year the White House office started asking for scripts of TV shows before they aired to determine whether they qualified under a program that allowed the networks to sell public service time owed to the government for millions of dollars to other advertisers in return for inserting White-House-approved anti-drug messages in the shows.

But on Sunday, UPN's Nunan said the White House had never asked his network for scripts in advance, nor was it involved in content decisions. He said cassettes of episodes that dealt with alcohol or drugs were sent to the drug office only after the shows aired to see if they qualified.

Only one episode of one show, "Moesha," met the drug office's standards, Nunan said.

The Office of National Drug Policy issued a statement in response to Fili-Krushnel's comments saying it never got involved in content.

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