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Vampire Magnets and Young Interspecies Lovers

October 03, 1999|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF Writer

Don't worry if you're a baby boomer who secretly watches the WB Network. You are not alone.

Though the network's series are populated with beautiful teen and twentysomething stars, the median age of viewers is about 26. "So half the people who are watching us are older than that," says Susanne Daniels, president of entertainment for the WB. "My parents who are in their 60s called me. They went to a dinner party and everyone there was talking about 'Dawson's Creek.' "

Daniels is counting on that age spread continuing as WB kicks off the fourth season of one of its most popular series, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and adds two more paranormal series to the lineup. "Angel," the "Buffy" spinoff, follows the adventures of Buffy's vampire love (David Boreanaz) who moved to Los Angeles to fight off vampires and other assorted demons. It is paired with "Buffy" on Tuesdays.

Following "Dawson's Creek" on Wednesday is the premiere of the network's acclaimed new sci-fi series, "Roswell." The romantic drama deals with a high school student (Shiri Appleby) who discovers that the classmate (Jason Behr) she adores is actually one of three teen aliens from an unknown planet.

Regardless of age, the common theme that brings in viewers of all ages is the shows' roots in climactic teenage years, according to Daniels.

"There are a lot of firsts," says Daniels. "Everyone remembers all of their firsts. It's like a commonality to the experience that people went through in high school."

"When people give them a chance, if they ignore the information that's telling them it's only for teens, they are always surprised how intelligently the shows are written," says Kate Juergens, senior vice president of comedy and drama development. "These shows do have teen characters and dilemmas you face when you are young, but if they didn't appeal to us, and we are in our 30s, we wouldn't buy them."

Daniels also suggests that "Buffy," "Angel" and "Roswell" reflect the new millennium. "I am not a psychologist," she says. "But it is my job at the same time to try and identify trends. With the end of the millennium there is a certain kind of back to basics being embraced ... back to spirituality. I think these shows all have a way into tapping in on that."

"Angel," which also stars Charisma Carpenter from "Buffy" and Glenn Quinn, has been in the planning stages for the past couple of years by "Buffy" creator and executive producer Joss Whedon.

"When Joss first mentioned it I got excited immediately," says Daniels. "David Boreanaz was a day player and from the moment we all set eyes on him, it was like who is this guy and how fast can we sign him to a contract. He brought a lot to 'Buffy,' but we also felt there were new challenges that Joss had in store for 'Buffy' conceptually. We certainly trusted Joss enough to make the changes--growing the show up a bit, taking her to college--while at the same time explaining who is Angel [in the new series], because there were so many unanswered questions."

The action-oriented "Angel," says Daniels, does skew a bit older. "That was the plan actually," she says. "This would be a nine o'clock show--an ultimate companion piece with 'Buffy.' "

The WB hopes "Angel" also will draw more male viewers. "We want to keep the audience we have," says Juergens. "Our core audience is female. We do get a lot of male viewers, but our shows at this point service women more directly than they do men. 'Buffy' does have a large male audience, which I think having 'Angel' after it, which is sort of a more male piece, will be great for that and sort of broadens our audience a bit more."

"Roswell," initially developed at Fox, definitely has a female appeal. But, says Daniels, that's not why she jumped at the chance to put it on the WB. "It was just a great show," she says. "I got asked by a reporter recently, 'How many more of these high school shows are you going to develop?' My response was, 'As many of them that are fantastic and I can develop or get my hands on basically.' That's how I feel. The show came in and knocked everybody away. We loved the characters."

Daniels and Juergens are also big fans of "Roswell" executive producer Jason Katims, he of "My So-Called Life" and "Relativity" fame. "A lot of times you spend an entire year on a pilot and it's fantastic. And then you have less than a month to get the next episode together and [the writer-producers] can't do it," says Daniels. "We really believed Jason was somebody who had a lot of experience and could."

Because of an aggressive marketing campaign, "Angel" and "'Roswell" are WB's highest-tracking new shows, with "Angel" in the top five of new fall series with regard to intent to watch.

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"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m.; "Angel" airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. and "Roswell" airs Wednesdays at

9 p.m. on the WB.

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