Last summer, WB touted Steven Spielberg's Invasion America as the next generation of prime-time cartoon.
As The Simpsons did for Fox, Invasion would aim for both adults and children, but with a mix of action and animation.
But as the season came and went, Invasion America never made it on the air. Spielberg had a change of heart about the look of the show and asked for more traditional animation.
"It took us three to four months to regroup and find the ground that everybody was happy with," says executive producer Harve Bennett, whose credits include The Six Million Dollar Man; Rich Man, Poor Man; and several Star Trek films.
And WB, which has done well with its new Dawson's Creek and surging 7th Heaven, had fewer holes to fill at the end of the season than it had anticipated.
Invasion finally premieres tonight (WB, 9 ET/PT, out of four) in a miniseries format. The show airs Tuesdays at 9 for four weeks, then concludes July 5 with a 90-minute episode at 7.
The good news for Bennett is that the show is airing primarily in WB's hot Dawson's Creek time slot, following reruns of another hit, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. "You couldn't ask for better placement."
Putting the show on for summer isn't a sign that WB has given up on the show, executives say, although new episodes won't be available until January at the earliest.
"Because animation takes so long, we weren't ready for the February sweeps," says WB CEO Jamie Kellner. "When we realized we couldn't get it on during the regular season, we decided to make an event out of it in summer.
"This is an interesting attempt to do something different, and I hope the audience shows up."
Invasion airs at a late hour for a cartoon, but Kellner says the target audience is teens and adults rather than kids.
"This is a show that's written like a live action show that happens to be animated," he says.
Invasion follows the adventures of a 17-year-old youth who learns he's half alien and must lead the Earth's defense in an interplanetary war. Voices include Robert Urich's, Leonard Nimoy's and Kristy McNichol's.
If the show does well enough to return, WB will commission new episodes for midseason that would kick off with repeats of the first 6.5 hours.
By Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY