UPN's gamble to bring wrestling to prime time appears to be paying off, despite outcries by TV critics around the country.

The Aug. 26 premiere of "WWF Smackdown!" on the struggling network pinned a 4.2 rating, according to Nielsen Media Research.

It was UPN's highest overall rating yet on Thursday night and also its best showing ever among teens, as well as among adults 18-49 and males 18-34.

UPN's second World Wrestling Federation broadcast on Sept. 2 dropped to a 3.7 overall rating but still led the other networks among teen-agers and males 18-34.

UPN has been trying to jump-start its prime-time schedule by broadcasting WWF matches. TV critics have attacked the programming gambit because of the violent and sexist content of the matches.

The early success of the program comes as no surprise. WWF contests are routinely among the top-rated shows on cable's USA Networks.

Despite the initial success, a UPN spokesman said the network has no plans to add more wrestling nights to its lineup.

Speaking of UPN, its fate could soon be in the hands of the Federal Communications Commission.

Federal law prohibits any one company from owning more than one broadcast network. But under a major deal unveiled last week, Viacom Inc. plans to merge with CBS Corp., which could give Viacom ownership stakes in two networks CBS and UPN.

Viacom and CBS officials said they will ask the FCC for a waiver to continue operating both networks. The request is likely to be part of the overall merger package submitted by the entertainment firms for consideration by the FCC.

A decision won't be swift. "It could take several months," an FCC spokeswoman said.

Veteran L.A. anchorwoman Kelly Lange is joining "Women 2 Women," a newscast to be aired at 4 p.m. by KCBS-TV Channel 2, as a special correspondent. Lange recently left KNBC-TV Channel 4, where she anchored various newscasts for many years.

Also joining "Women 2 Women" is veteran film critic David Sheehan, who will also report on entertainment news during the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. newscasts.

The changes are part of a major effort at the struggling station to boost ratings and revenue.

Beginning Sept. 13, "The Price is Right," now L.A.'s No. 1 show at 10 a.m., moves to 3 p.m. "Price" has been the top-rated show in Los Angeles in its time period for more than a decade.

KCBS had planned to move a new talk show hosted by Dr. Joy Browne to the afternoon time zone but reconsidered when faced with competition from veteran gabbers Oprah Winfrey and Rosie O'Donnell. Browne will now premiere in "Price's" 10 a.m. spot.

Meanwhile, CBS anchorman Dan Rather will be honored at a cocktail party on Sept. 13 at KCBS. Rather's evening news broadcast is moving to 6:30 p.m. and will go head to head with Tom Brokaw on NBC and Peter Jennings on ABC.

Movers & shakers

QVC, never known for its high-end products, is heading to Beverly Hills. The cable shopping network will feature a four-hour live broadcast on Oct. 31 from the Beverly Hills Civic Center. It will feature merchandise from such posh Beverly Hills shops as Carroll & Co., Giorgio, Fleur de Lis, Jessica McClintock and Teuscher's Chocolates

The giant water tank used during the filming of "Titanic" in Ensenada, Mexico will be put to use again next year. Walt Disney Co.'s Touchstone division is developing an epic with producer Jerry Bruckheimer about the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. The World War II drama is expected to cost more than $100 million and will be directed by Michael Bay, who teamed with Bruckheimer on "Armageddon"

Paramount Pictures has opened its gates to companies and groups looking to add a little sizzle to their parties, fund-raisers and corporate events. The studio will help stage the events by providing services through its prop warehouse and lighting departments. Sound engineers and gardeners are also available. Chrysler recently introduced its new line of cars at the Melrose Avenue lot.

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