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 ABC - The Network More Americans Reach For

Jeff Eastin
has created
a program
so mind-numbingly awful
that he almost seems to
want it to go down in

'Shasta McNasty': One
dreadful show from UPN

Hip-hop disaster reeks of flop sweat

By Andrew Wallenstein

      If only UPN could come up with shows as memorable as their titles. In the notorious tradition of "The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer" comes "Shasta McNasty" (Tuesdays, 8:30-9 p.m. ET, beginning tonight; sneak preview Sept. 30), a 30-minute train wreck that should appear in the punch lines of TV industry jokes for months to come.
      The only thing that will keep "Shasta" from instant cancellation is "WWF Smackdown!", the highly rated UPN wrestling showcase that has provided a blizzard of promotion for the series in recent weeks. The network is hoping the legions of young males tuning into "Smackdown" will appreciate the low-brow hi-jinks of "Shasta."
     Smartly, UPN offered a sneak preview of "Shasta" immediately after last week’s abbreviated edition of "Smackdown." The move paid off nicely, as 4.52 million viewers tuned in (1.8/5 in adults 18-49) after another stellar Nielsen showing from "Smackdown" (6 million, 2.2/6 in adults 18-49).
     But whether any of the 4.52 million who watched the first time around will come back for the hour-long premiere of "Shasta" (begins at 8 p.m. instead of 8:30 p.m.) on its regular night is highly doubtful. Creator Jeff Eastin has created a program so mind-numbingly awful that he almost seems to want it to go down in flames.
     A raucous but crude "The Monkees" with a hip-hop twist, "Shasta" is fascinatingly bad. Three slacker rappers (Carmine Giovinazzo, Dale Goldboldo and Jake Busey) are close friends and members of a band. Not that music is a substantial component of the show; most of its 30 minutes entail mischief like baiting a dwarf waiter (guest star Verne Troyer, Minie-Me from "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me") with short jokes.
    Combining the scantily clad women and sunbaked fun of Venice Beach, Calif., with the crossover appeal of hip-hop music was a good idea, but "Shasta" tries so hard to be casually cool that it reeks of flop sweat. Any semblance of traditional narrative is nonexistent. It’s attempts to flout the conventions of typical programming conventions are admirable but empty-headed.
     Of course, even if "Shasta" were a decent show its time slot isn’t enviable. Not only will WB’s "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" draw the younger demo "Shasta" is aimed at, but Fox’s "That ‘70s Show" is also proving to be a solid performer in its second season. In 1999-2000’s second week, "Show" notched an impressive 6.0/17 among adults 18-49, Fox’s best-ever regular-series Nielsen return in that time slot. Even NBC’s "3rd Rock From the Sun" is showing renewed life at 8:30, building on lead-in "Just Shoot Me’s" 18-49 rating by over 22 percent.
    There’s also the question of whether "Shasta" lead-in "Dilbert" will ever be able to live up to the hype that preceded it last season. Not likely: Its first outing this season led to the lowest Tuesday household rating in UPN history. That alone should drain "Shasta" of any ratings fizz.
    Still, if "Shasta" inexplicably connects with its target demo the way "Smackdown" has, UPN will have a nice surprise on its hands. "Smackdown" has more than met the network’s high expectations, beating tough competition among teen demos and rivaling NBC among men 18-34.

  -Andrew Wallenstein is a New York writer.