20th Anniversary of UPN

Defunct television network UPN celebrates its 20th anniversary today, having premiered two decades ago. Unlike The WB, which launched with just one night of programming each week, UPN started off with two (three if you count its Saturday afternoon movie block). In March 1996 a third night, Wednesday, was added. Here’s how UPN’s first week looked:

Monday, January 16th, 1995
8:00PM Star Trek: Voyager

Tuesday, January 17th, 1995
8:00PM Marker
9:00PM The Watcher

Saturday, January 21st, 1995
12:00PM UPN Movie Trailer – (Call to Glory)

(The following week on Monday, January 23rd UPN premiered two sitcoms — Platypus Man and Pig Sty — after Star Trek: Voyager.)

Star Trek: Voyager was the only show to survive for a second season. The others were all off the air by August 1995.

In January 2006, CBS and Warner Bros. announced that both UPN and The WB would shut down and merge to create a new network called The CW. UPN signed off on Friday, September 15th, 2006. During its more than 11 and a half years in existence, UPN aired a lot of shows that didn’t last very long. I believe the shortest-lived UPN series was a comedy/drama called As If that ran for just two episodes in March 2002 (five additional episodes were left unaired).

Here’s a list of all UPN shows that ran for 13 episodes or fewer, excluding sports, reality shows, and game shows:

Marker – 13 episodes (January – May 1995)
Pig Sty – 13 episodes (January – May 1995)
Platypus Man – 13 episodes (January – May 1995)
The Watcher – 13 episodes (January – June 1995)
Live Shot – 13 episodes (August 1995 – January 1996)
Swift Justice – 13 episodes (March – July 1996)
Deadly Games – 13 episodes (September – January 1996; July 1997)
Gary & Mike – 13 episodes (January – April 2001)
Second Time Around – 13 episodes (September 2004 – January 2005)
Legend – 12 episodes (April – August 1995)
Guys Like Us – 12 episodes (October 1998 – January 1999)
Secret Agent Man – 12 episodes (March – July 2000)
Jake 2.0 – 12 episodes (September – December 2003)
Haunted – 11 episodes (September – November 2002)
Hitz – 10 episodes (August – November 1997)
The Strip – 10 episodes (October 1999 – January 2000; July 2000)
Level 9 – 10 episodes (October 2000 – January 2001)
Abby – 9 episodes (January – March 2003)
Head Over Heels – 8 episodes (August – October 1997)
Mercy Point – 8 episodes (October 1998; July 1999)
The Mullets – 8 episodes (September – October 2003; March 2004)
South Beach – 8 episodes (January – February 2006)
Reunited – 7 episodes (October – December 1998)
Freedom – 7 episodes (October – December 2000)
Social Studies – 6 episodes (March – April 1997)
The Beat – 6 episodes (March – April 2000)
All Souls – 6 episodes (April – May 2001; August 2001)
Platinum – 6 episodes (April – May 2003)
Game Over – 6 episodes (March – April 2004)
The Bad Girl’s Guide – 6 episodes (May – July 2005)
Home Movies – 5 episodes (April – May 1999)
The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer – 4 episodes (October 1998)
The Random Years – 4 episodes (March 2002)
Sex, Love & Secrets – 4 episodes (September – October 2005)
As If – 2 episodes (March 2002)

How many do you remember? I was a loyal viewer of Freedom, which is the only UPN series and the newest obscurity I’ve written a full article about here at Television Obscurities. I also watched Jake 2.0, a few episodes of Level 9, and at least one episode of The Random Years. I also enjoyed Home Movies but after it had moved from UPN to Cartoon Network/Adult Swim.

As I mentioned a few days ago in my post about The WB’s 20th anniversary, I was very excited about the premiere of Star Trek: Voyager. I recorded the audio of the first five episodes onto cassette tapes (which I still have). But I don’t think I watched any other UPN programming until the late 1990s.

9 Replies to “20th Anniversary of UPN”

  1. I have really fond memories of Deadly Games. Very classic kind of Pop-Sci-Fi premise in a mid-90s motif: a failed cold fusion experiment (though a complex series of coincidences) brings all the villains from a video game to life, and the hero has to fight them, one a week, until the finale. Each one can only be defeated through “video game logic”, which, since this is the ’90s, required weird alchemical leaps of logic based on symbolism, like, say, a used car salesman who can only be defeated by lemons, or a doctor whose attack is to give you a heart attack when he shows you the bill. The clever twist is that the video game was something the hero wrote to work out his anger issues during his recent divorce, so all the villains are exaggerated versions of people he felt had wronged him, with the final twist being the reveal that the final boss (Played by Christopher Lloyd), who sought to destroy the very concept of “family”, was his father.

  2. Star Trek Voyager was a pretty good show, but I enjoyed Marker more. The plot involved an heir in a rich family paying off “markers” given to people by his father.

  3. I watched all four episodes of “The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer” only because of the controversy surrounding the show before it’s debut.

  4. UPN survived on Star Trek. When Enterprise ended there was nothing left to draw people to the network.

    Because of the number of black-targeted shows the network was jokingly called Under Paid Negros. Their first years did make it seem like they were trying to be a BNT.

    To the best of my knowledge UPN aired only three fall preview specials. The first in 1996 was called “It’s Hot in Here.” It introduced the shows on the network. The other two were in 2004 and 2005. The first one was shot on the set of Voyager.

    They also had Sunday morning cartoons. They chose Sunday so as not to compete with the other networks that aired cartoons at that time. But that only lasted a few years.

    These channels also allowed for many first-run syndicated shows like Hercules and Xena to thrive. Nowadays those shows wind up on specialty cable channels. Channels would often program them in prime-time to fill in for the lack of programming from the network.

  5. Another UPN show that lasted a little bit longer than 13 episodes (18 or 19) was The Burning Zone, a Universal TV production from the creator of The Equalizer about a government task force that dealt with biological warfare.

  6. I’d love to see “Legend” out on DVD. “MacGyver” and “Stargate”‘s Richard Dean Anderson as an 1880s writer who visits the Old West and is constantly mistaken for his creation, the dime novel hero Nicodemus Legend. He teams up with an eccentric Tesla-like inventor played by Jon “Q” deLancie, who provides him with futuristic, non-lethal weaponry. Kind of an updated “Wild Wild West,” with two charismatic leads and a lot of sly, wink-at-the-camera writing.

    “Marker” also wasn’t bad. Set in Hawaii, Richard Grieco was the millionaire’s son who helped out people who’d been given “markers” by his father. Also featured Gates McFadden in one of the few non-Trek roles she ever had.

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