UPN, which is still trying to find shows that appeal to the WWF fans, tries twice tonight with a pair of new series.
Both "Freedom" and "Level 9" look like shows that viewers will have a tough time remembering, even if they do happen upon the pilot episode. There are certainly worse things on TV — and UPN has come up with lots of shows that are lots worse than these.
FREEDOM (Friday, 7 p.m., UPN/Ch. 14): Before reading the premise of the new series "Freedom," you must understand one thing — it doesn't really matter.
This series from action movie producer Joel Silver ("The Matrix," "Con Air") postulates a near-future world where a wave of terrorism and the assassination of the president of the United States prompt the Joint Chiefs of Staff to put the Constitution on ice and declare martial law. But, of course, that gives rise to a resistance movement.
At the center of the series are four nonconformists (Bodhi Elfman, Scarlett Chorvat, Holt McCallany and Darius McCrary) who are each former members of elite forces who are being held in a federal prison as traitors. Soon, of course, they're out and they're freedom fighters.
Again, none of this much matters. It's all an excuse for lots of martial-arts scenes, many of them in slow-motion.
Basically, this is a show about people kicking each other. Which, at least, makes it easier on the writers, who only have to think up new scenes in which to have people kicking each other.
LEVEL 9 (Friday, 8 p.m., UPN/Ch. 14): How's this for weird? This new action hour about a secret government agency formed to fight cyber crime opens with a big story about how an LAPD detective (Tim Guinee) joins up with that undercover team and thwarts a really bad guy.
The detective is the most interesting character in the pilot. And Friday's episode is his one-and-only appearance in "Level 9."
According to executive producer John Sacret Young (whose credits include "China Beach"), the change came because members of Level 9 "are up and down the Western part of the United States, and it was very tough to find a way to accurately, legitimately integrate an L.A. cop into that."
Well, gee, I'm no scriptwriting genius, but maybe he could have resigned from the LAPD to join the team?
Obviously, the producers decided to take the show in a different direction. And, given UPN's limited budgets, they couldn't afford to re-shoot the pilot. So, instead, they're introducing themselves with an episode that's almost false advertising.
Not that "Level 9" is such a great show. It opens with three exceedingly violent sequences, and the level of mayhem remains high. The story itself — an evil computer whiz grabs a government witness and ransoms her to a bigger, badder guy — looks a lot like other shows/movies that have come before.
And if you really like Friday's premiere, well, who knows whether ensuing episodes will work as well for you?
AND THE LOSER IS: NBC's "Tucker" has won (or is that lost?) the annual cancellation derby, becoming the first new fall series of the season to get the ax after airing but four episodes. And "Daddio" is going with it, although the Michael Chiklis sitcom may return in a different timeslot later this season.
The two lame sitcoms were ignored by viewers on Monday nights, and they'll be replaced in the 7-8 p.m. timeslot by yet another edition of the newsmagazine "Dateline" for the next couple of weeks. NBC is making no commitments after that.