Discovery Communications unveils upfront slates

From a pigeon-training Mike Tyson to Sarah Palin's Alaskan travelogue, and from the return of Kate Gosselin to TLC to a new show hosted by Oprah Winfrey via the Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Communications' 2010-2011 upfront slates promise a wide range of non-fiction programming across its networks. Here's an overview of each net's upcoming slate.
April 8, 2010

From a pigeon-training Mike Tyson to Sarah Palin’s Alaskan travelogue, and from the return of Kate Gosselin to TLC to a new show hosted by Oprah Winfrey via the Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Communications’ 2010-2011 upfront slates promise a wide range of non-fiction programming across its networks. Here’s an overview of each net’s upcoming slate.


‘Discovery Channel isn’t just our name, it’s what we do everyday. With only the highest quality production values, the most compelling storytellers in the business and an unending yen for adventure and exploration, Discovery truly delivers like no one else in the nonfiction world,’ says W. Clark Bunting, president and general manager, Discovery Channel. Coming off of the airing of the ambitious 11-part natural history series Life, Discovery Channel is bringing even more event television to its viewers in 2010-2011, including Curiosity: The Questions of Life. Personally overseen by Discovery founder John Hendricks, this 60-episode series will span five years and premiere on Discovery Channel with companion content on Science Channel, HD Theater, Planet Green, and Discovery Communications’ international networks. Each episode will be geared towards answering ‘an enduring question science, civilization, technology and the human experience.’

Another Discovery Channel event series is Human Planet, which will examine the relationship between humanity and its home planet. Each HD episode will be set in a different environment: arctic, rivers, mountains, oceans, jungles, grasslands, desert and urban.

Other specials include Earth from Space sees Discovery team with NASA to use satellite technology in its depiction of Earth as a living organism. Reign of the Dinosaurs brings Disney and Pixar to the table for what Discovery’s billing as ‘a daring and provocative new chapter in television.’ Steven Spielberg will serve as exec producer on The Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero, and of course, ‘Shark Week’ will return.

New series include Worst Case Scenario featuring Man vs. Wild‘s Bear Grylls and produced by Pilgrim Films & Television for Discovery Channel and Construction Intervention, featuring ‘construction guru’ Charlie Frattini and crew making over construction mishaps. Returning series include Deadliest Catch, MythBusters, Dirty Jobs, Man vs. Wild, Storm Chasers and The Colony.


TLC posted double-digit growth in 2009 over 2008 and its highest ratings in five years. One ingredient in that recipe of success, Jon & Kate Plus 8‘s Kate Gosselin, will be returning to the female-skewing network in 2010 with her new show Twist of Kate. The new series sees Gosselin traveling across the country to see first-hand the lives of other women and moms. And for those who want to keep up with the Gosselin brood, limited Kate Plus 8 series are also slated for 2010-2011.

The other TLC series that has tongues already wagging is Sarah Palin’s Alaska, due to air in Q4. TLC bills the series as ‘a documentary series about our country’s most majestic and remote state…seen through the eyes of its most famous resident.’

Yet another non-fiction staple is being resurrected after a fairly recent demise. American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior is slated for Q3. Other new series in the family business vein include Auctioneer$ (w/t) and Homemade Millionaire (w/t) featuring Kelly Ripa.

On the food tip, look for a Cake Boss spin-off, Cake Boss College. Also making the cut are Inedible to Incredible (w/t), Food Buddha, Cupcake Sisters (w/t) and Mega Bites. Wedding-wise, look for Battle of the Wedding Designers (w/t); Down the Aisle in Style (w/t); Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta and Say Yes to the Dress: Big Bliss. Last but not least, in the ‘extraordinarily big family’ sub-genre, look for Quintuplet Surprise and The Carpio Family Project.


For 2010-2011, Animal Planet will unveil 300 hours of original programming, 100 hours of new shows and a brand new tagline and approach, ‘Surprisingly Human.’ ‘We all inhabit one large, living planet, and the stories we can tell at the margins where humans’ and animals’ lives intersect make for terrific entertainment,’ says Animal Planet president/GM Marjorie Kaplan.

To that end, look for the debut of Taking on Tyson, featuring heavyweight boxing legend Mike Tyson. Apparently, Mr. Tyson is something of a pigeon appreciator, and this series sees Iron Mike return to Brooklyn to raise and rear pigeons for competitive pigeon racing.

Dolphin Warriors (w/t) spotlights activist Ric O’Barry (featured in The Cove) and his son Lincoln as they continue to fight to save dolphins from slaughter. Also new to Animal Planet is Skunk Whisperer, in which Ned Bruha attempts to humanely and entertainingly eradicate unwanted critters from homes. Predator expert Dave Salmoni stars in World’s Deadliest Towns (w/t), underwater cinematographer Didier Noiret features in the special Into the Dragon’s Lair, and Al Roker Entertainment brings Last Chance Highway to the net.

Returning series include the smash Whale Wars, Pit Boss, River Monsters, Pit Bulls and Parolees, Dogs 101 and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.


A lot of eyes are automatically going to be on OWN upon its launch in 2011 thanks to its namesake, and Ms. Winfrey lends her name to at least two new programs airing on the Discovery-Oprah joint venture in the new year.

As rumored, Oprah will star in a new series for the net, dubbed Oprah’s Next Chapter. In this series, she’s moving out of the studio environment and interviewing captivating guests in assorted locations, from the Great Wall to her teahouse. Oprah will also be teaming up with Mark Burnett Productions for Your Own Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star (w/t), which will pair Oprah with the reality TV production powerhouse for a nationwide talent search.

It’s not all about Oprah, though. Also look for Shania Twain to make her series debut with Why Not? with Shania Twain in which the Canadian country superstar opens up about the end of her marriage and her hopes for the future. Gayle King Live brings the radio host and Oprah pal to audiences live daily via the network. And look for Visionaries: Inside the Creative Mind, which will examine the creative workings of entertainment luminaries such as James Cameron and Lady Gaga.

These series join these series already announced (all with working titles): Behind the Scenes: the Oprah Show’s Final Season; Enough Already (formerly The Peter Walsh Project); In the Bedroom with Laura Berman; Inside with Lisa Ling; Kidnapped by the Kids; The Miracle Detectives; Oprah Presents: Master Class; The Swell Life and Searching.


New original series from ID include the intriguingly-titled James Ellroy’s LA: City of Demons and Who the (Bleep) did I Marry?, as well as Paperback Mysteries, Buried Secrets, Saved on the Strip, Nothing Personal (starring The Sopranos‘ Steve Schirripa) and Secrets of the City. Returning series include On the Case with Paula Zahn, Disappeared, I (Almost) Got Away With It, Cold Blood and Main Street Mysteries.

Limited series and specials include Face to Face, Based on a True Story, Real Bayou, Deputy Butterbean (w/t) and Cons and Frauds (w/t).


New series for Discovery’s home for science include Prophets of Science Fiction and Fringe Science, each dedicated to spotlighting those who think beyond the boundaries. What If? and The World Without explore engaging hypothetical circumstances, and Mutant Planet looks deep into mysteries of evolution.

Returning series include How It’s Made, Build it Bigger, Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman, Sci Fi Science: Physics of the Impossible, Meteorite Men, and yes, Punkin Chunkin will be back as a returning special.


Planet Green’s upcoming slate features a range of programming that extends beyond what many would consider as typically ‘green’-oriented programming. New series include The Kamen Code, featuring socially-conscious innovator Dean Kamen, creator of the Segway; Shareen Vintage from World of Wonder which spotlights vintage fashion expert Shareen Mitchell and Treehugger TV, inspired by online destination Other new series include The John Patrick Show, Urban Impact (w/t), Fast Forward and Urban Insight.

Returning to Planet Green are Conviction Kitchen, Operation Wild and The Fabulous Beekman Boys.

Discovery Health will be bringing back Dr. G: Medical Examiner for Q4 2010 and will premiere New Year New You before the net transitions to the Oprah Winfrey Network. Highlights for The Military Channel will include Greatest Tank Battles, Ultimate Weapons, Operation Homecoming and Feats of Valor: The Homecoming Special.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.