Wild Things, a syndicated wildlife magazine from Paramount Television Group and ex-Cops producer Bertram van Munster, was introduced last month on 186 upn stations, covering 97% of the U.S. market. The one-hour weekly magazine has proven a ratings winner, with one L.A. affiliate even running the show against primetime champ Jerry Seinfeld.
Paramount began experimenting in reality-based programming last year with the magazine Real TV, and the success of both ventures has inspired the company to undertake development on new factual products.
‘The [magazine] form itself has been somewhat stagnant,’ claims Paramount’s president of creative affairs, Frank Kelly. ‘Generally animal shows tend to be interchangeable. Our thought, with Wild Things, was that we could tap into the general attraction to this kind of material, but do it differently.’
By differently, Kelly means mixing up quick cuts, mtv-style visuals and a soundtrack heavy on electric guitars. Each episode features human encounters with wild animals, be it swimming with dolphins or tracking poachers on the African savannah.
The producers have tried to avoid some of the ‘shock video’ so prevalent in American weeknight magazine programs. ‘We didn’t think it was a sustainable kind of form, and we didn’t think it was the kind of program you could bring the whole family to watch. I found that the wear factor for in-your-face stuff is pretty quick. By raising the bar every week, eventually you can’t jump over it anymore,’ says Kelly.
The Paramount production team is shooting almost all of the first season on its own. The problem, they say, is finding outside producers who understand the show’s ‘visual mandate.’ Paramount hopes to source more outside material as producers become familiar with the program and its style.
Also in Upfront:
-News Briefs for November 1997
-Disney goes back to nature
-Discovery’s Latin American
-New Canadian Cable Apps
-TVNZ’s Natural History Unit goes on the block. And the winner is. . .