On the slate

Springtime is Upfront season for U.S. cable networks, and as the weather heats up so too does the fight for eyeballs. Here’s a look at what various cable nets have on the way for 2011-2012.
May 25, 2011

Springtime is Upfront season for U.S. cable networks, and as the weather heats up so too does the fight for eyeballs. Here’s a look at what various cable nets have on the way for 2011-2012.

ANIMAL PLANET: Mermaids, lion tamers, rat exterminators, tattooists and Bigfoot all feature on the upfront slate for Discovery Communications’ Animal Planet, forming part of 14 new series and 12 returners.

Among the arrivals lined up for the network, Detroit Animal Tattoo (working title) follows Michigan-based Tom Renshaw, a tattoo artist specializing in photo-realistic wildlife tattoos; Finding Bigfoot looks at four eccentric but passionate members of the Bigfoot Field Research Organization as they hunt for the Sasquatch; and Lion Kings of Las Vegas (w/t) explores a Las Vegas family of entertainers that deal with tigers, panthers and lions.

Hillbilly Handfishin’, meanwhile, sees adventure-thirsty city-slickers heading to Oklahoma to submerge themselves in murky waters to catch catfish with their bare hands and feet; while the two-hour special Mermaids: The Body Found (w/t) looks at amateur video and photographic evidence which suggests that mermaids might exist.

Elsewhere, Ned Bruha: Skunk Whisperer, which was part of last year’s Animal Planet upfront announcement, joins the roster for 2011-2012 and sees the wildlife control agent and his crew facing the challenges of catching home-invading creatures without traps or killing them, including possums, bats and even mountain lions; while Puppies Vs. Babies features judges looking at the cutest clips from the Internet.

Among the other shows, Rat Busters NYC looks at exterminators in the Big Apple; Romance Is Dead (w/t) looks at a taxidermy shop in the backwoods of Romance, Arkansas; and Sweet Avenger (w/t) is a cupcake show set in a vegan bakery in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Finally, Tanked (w/t) follows the antics of two brothers-in-law as they run one of the largest aquarium manufacturing companies in the U.S.

In addition to the new shows, the network’s big ratings-winner River Monsters will be returning, as will Pit Boss, Pitbulls & Parolees and Whale Wars. Adam Benzine

A&E: In-laws, hogs and models are coming to A&E.

The U.S. cable net has 10 new non-fiction shows penned in for the year ahead. The slate features new series from Leftfield Pictures and Original Productions, as well as series in development from Embassy Row, Glee producer Ryan Murphy and another with Mark Burnett on board as exec producer.

New series include: the Leftfield Pictures-produced InLaws (w/t), which brings relationship experts into contact with couples that need help with their in-laws; Ship Happens (w/t), produced by Megalomedia and dealing with the “cutthroat world of competitive shipping;” Boar Hunters (w/t) from Original Productions, which follows hog-hunting family the Campbells; and another from Original Productions, Storage Wars: Dallas, spun from the net’s ratings-winning non-fiction franchise.

New series in development include: Embassy Row-produced Hands On (w/t) a competition which sees contestants battle for a big prize by keeping their hands on it for as long as they can; and Family Bonding (w/t), produced by Krasnow Productions, which will handcuff together two members of a family in crisis to see if such drastic measures repair their relationship.

Other series in development are Profilers (w/t), an FBI series from James Bruce Productions and exec produced by Bruce and Mark Burnett; MAK Pictures’ Cajun Blue, which follows a Louisiana sheriffs department; Duckmen (w/t), produced by Gurney Productions and following another set of colorful Louisiana natives that deals in duck calls and decoys; and Model Apartment, produced by Ryan Murphy Productions and Fox 21 and offering a fly-on-the-wall look at six co-habiting models.

Returning non-fiction series include Storage Wars; Beyond Scared Straight; The First 48; Gene Simmons Family Jewels; Billy the Exterminator; Hoarders; Intervention; Dog the Bounty Hunter; Manhunters; and Parking Wars. Barry Walsh

BRAVO: Fashion, food, beauty, design and pop culture are the pillars of the NBCUniversal-owned cable net’s programming, and its 11 new series adhere to the recipe.

Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis, produced by Authentic Entertainment, will re-cast the house flipper as a therapist of sorts, as he moves in with assorted homeowners to change them inside and out. It’s a Brad Brad World (w/t), produced by Shed Media, follows former Rachel Zoe assistant Brad Goreski as he embarks on his own fashion business.

Meanwhile, another docusoap, the Intuitive Entertainment-produced The Therapists, follows the professional and personal lives of various Los Angeles therapists. Intuitive also brings Project Soulmate to Bravo’s 2011-2012 slate, which follows Manhattan matchmaker Lori Zaslow. Relationships also play key roles in Miss Advised, produced by RelativityREAL and Blondie Girl Productions, and Most Eligible: Dallas, produced by Pink Sneakers.

The long-awaited series from Project Runway alum Chris March is also in the mix. Mad Fashion is produced by Matt Westmore Media and No Regrets Entertainment. Fashion is also front and center in Ready to Wear (w/t), produced by Leftfield Pictures and focusing on a particularly cool New York City consignment shop.

Rounding out the slate is another entry in World of Wonder’s Million Dollar Listing franchise, this time based in New York; Tabatha Takes Over, a spin-off for Tabatha’s Salon Takeover star Tabatha Coffey from Reveille that sees the salon star transform other small businesses; and Roblé and Co, which follows New York-based chef Roblé Ali as he creates his own catering company.

Returning series include second season pick-ups for Top Chef: Just Desserts and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills; a third season of Bethenny Ever After and a fourth season for both The Real Housewives of Atlanta and Tabatha’s Salon Takeover. Bravo also said the upcoming ninth season of Top Chef will incorporate more of a multi-platform approach, with story lines playing out across various media. BW

DISCOVERY CHANNEL: For 2011-2012, Discovery Channel will premiere new series Penn & Teller’s Secrets of the Universe and Swamp Brothers, along with the specials Frozen Planet and Where’s My Mammoth?.

Penn & Teller’s Secrets of the Universe sees the world-famous magician duo present 10 stories per episode, one of which is fabricated. Audiences will play along via multiple platforms to guess the fake.

Best in the Business is a battle of job-skill supremacy, with farmer pitted against farmer, fireman against fireman, and so on. The series aims to put the spotlight on the “not-so-average people who take their professions to the next level.”

Swamp Brothers features exotic animal expert Robbie Keszey and his brother Stephen, a former city slicker, as they run Glades Herp Farms, Florida’s largest reptile sanctuary and exotic reptile dealership.

Nik Wallenda, a descendant of famous circus family the Flying Wallendas, is the focus of Life on a Wire, a look at a 21st century daredevil.

Specials coming to the network include the blue chip BBC/Discovery Channel coproduction Frozen Planet, which captures the scale and beauty of the Earth’s polar regions, from the team behind Planet Earth. Scheduled to air in the fall on BBC1, the series will air on Discovery in spring of next year. Also on the way is Where’s My Mammoth?, which is billed as “the definitive natural history of one of the most iconic animals that ever lived.”

The ever-popular ‘Shark Week’ will return for its 24th season, with new insights into the creatures, and with Saturday Night Live star Andy Samberg signed on as “chief shark officer,” a role that will see him host a special during the programming event.

Discovery’s returning series include Deadliest Catch, American Chopper, Dirty Jobs, Man Vs. Wild, MythBusters, Man Woman Wild, Dual Survival, Storm Chasers, Auction Kings, Hogs Gone Wild, Swamp Loggers and American Loggers. Kelly Anderson

FOOD NETWORK: Food Network’s new primetime series includes Have Cake, Will Travel, which premiered April 26. The series follows Ashley Vicos, a veritable star of the cake decorating world.

A barbecue challenge is the focus of Best in Smoke, which kicked off May 8, while Crave, premiering on June 20, follows host Troy Johnson as he finds new gastronomic passions. Premiering in July, Heat Seekers stars chefs Aaron Sanchez and Roger Mooking as they discover the most deliciously spicy food across the U.S. Chef Hunter, airing in August, follows chef recruiter Carrie McCully as she tasks four rising-star chefs from across the country to compete for an executive chef position at a prestigious restaurant.

Moving from savory to sweet, a family owned cookie shop at the Jersey shore is the focus of Tough Cookies, airing in July, while Sugar High, airing August 8, takes Duff Goldman out of his Ace of Cakes bakery and puts him on the road to find sweet treats. Halloween Wars pits five teams of cake decorators, candy makers and pumpkin carvers against each other in a competition to make the best Halloween treats.

Supersizers, airing in January 2012, follows two food adventurers going through the history of food and examining how their culinary past affects their bodies.

The net’s upcoming daytime series feature new on-screen talent, with Pioneer Woman focusing on blogger and author Ree Drummond, and a series for the winner of Food Network Star both set for August. Country singer/cookbook author Tricia Yearwood will also have her own cooking series, set to debut in September.

Returning series for Food Network include season two of 24 Hour Restaurant Battle, season seven of Chopped and season seven of Food Network Star. Cupcake Wars’ third season will premiere in June; season two of Restaurant: Impossible airs in July; Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives will see its season 13 premiere in August; and The Great Food Truck Race drives on to season two from August 14. Season six of The Best Thing I Ever Ate is set for September, while Next Iron Chef: Celebrity (w/t) will air on October 30. Moving into 2012, season three of Worst Cooks in America will premiere in February. KA

HISTORY: Among History’s upcoming special events is The Men Who Built America, in development for 2012. History says it “shines a spotlight on the influential builders, dreamers and believers whose feats transformed the United States… into the greatest economic and technological superpower the world had ever seen.” It is produced by Stephen David Entertainment.

Greenlit series include Invention USA, produced by T Group Productions and featuring two tech and science experts who travel across the U.S. in search of great new inventions amongst the scores of prototypes submitted to them by amateur Edisons.

Other new projects include Full Metal Jousting, a new series from Pilgrim Films & Television, which follows preparation for a modern-day jousting match that pits two competitors, kitted out in state-of-the-art protective gear, against each other in full-on battles; and United Stats of America, produced by Left/Right Productions, which marries graphics with statistical information to provide a unique picture of the U.S.

These series join three previously announced new series: the Leftfield Pictures-produced American Restoration; Around the World in 80 Ways, produced by Original Productions; and How the States Got Their Shapes, produced by Half Yard Productions.

Greenlit specials include the CGI-driven History of the World in Two Hours, produced by Flight 33 Productions; the archive-based 9/12: The Day After, produced by New Animal Productions; and Vietnam in HD, the follow-up to WWII in HD from Lou Reda Productions. These join the recently announced scripted miniseries on the way from Mark Burnett (The Bible) and a Thinkfactory Media/ Kevin Costner copro (The Hatfields & McCoys). BW

INVESTIGATION DISCOVERY: At Discovery Communications’ New York City upfront presentation, the big news from Investigation Discovery (ID) was of a partnership with acclaimed documentarian Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man, Encounters at the End of the World), for a series exploring crime, punishment, and death row.

Talking to realscreen about the show, Henry Schleiff, president and general manager of ID and Military Channel, said, “When you see the interviews, one-on-one, in the context of a person who may be executed within hours of the interview, I think you’re looking at something that is unique in television.”

In addition to Werner Herzog’s Final Confessions, ID also aired clips from its five new original series, including its first docu-soap, Big Law: Deputy Butterbean, which sees former heavyweight boxer Eric “Butterbean” Esch being deputized by the Walker County Sheriff’s office in Alabama.

Other new shows forming the basis of ID’s largest slate of new and returning series to date include Real Crime/Reel Story (working title), which looks at the truth behind popular crime and justice movies, such as Monster and Goodfellas; and Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda (w/t), which follows a 23-year veteran of Colorado’s homicide investigation unit, looking back at murders that still haunt him today. Also look for Deadly Sins; Unraveled: Countdown to a Kill; Crimes of Passion (w/t); Hunting Justice with M. William Phelps (w/t); Real Streets Miami (w/t) and Hostage: Do or Die (w/t).

Of all the Discovery Communications networks stumping at the Upfront, ID was perhaps in the strongest position, with Schleiff never shying away from letting the audience know that his channel was the “fastest growing network” in America. The motto for the upcoming season: “So successful… it’s criminal.” AB

LIFETIME: Lifetime is tripling its unscripted hours with 11 new original series, including spin-offs of Project Runway, for its 2011-2012 programming slate.

Complementing the original series are two new shows: Project Runway All Stars, which brings back the most talented and memorable contestants, and Project Accessory, a competition series focused on finding the next great fashion accessory talent. Project Runway All Stars will be produced by The Weinstein Company and Bunim-Murray Productions, while Project Accessory will be produced by The Weinstein Company and Goodbye Pictures.

Other new series include Vanished with Beth Holloway (pictured), a docu-reality series hosted by the mother of missing teen Natalee Holloway. Lifetime has ordered 10 one-hour episodes of the series, which aunched on May 9. Holloway explores true mysteries of families who have been victimized by unsolved abductions, disappearances and unspeakable crimes. Vanished with Beth Holloway is produced by Jupiter Entertainment.

Elsewhere, 495 Productions and its executive producer SallyAnn Salsano (Jersey Shore) are behind Love Handles, an eight-part, hour-long docu-series featuring a dual transformation of overweight couples.

The inhabitants of a famous Brooklyn neighborhood, many of them Russian-American, are the focus of Brighton Beach, a 12-part, half-hour series from Left/Right.

Dance Moms explores the world of competitive dance through the eyes of the young dancers’ overbearing mothers. The six-part, hour-long series is produced by Collins Avenue Entertainment.

The stories of people who have encountered dramatic incidents, from accidents to miracles, are at the focus of Sirens Media’s The Day that Changed My Life. The six-part, one-hour series will use in-depth interview segments and re-enactments to tell those stories.

Best friends and interior designers Tracy Hutson and Tanya McQueen will travel across America to find eclectic pieces for their L.A. home decor store in the seven-part, one-hour series To Live & Buy, from RelativityREAL.

Last but not least, The Tracey Gold Project (w/t) sees host Tracey Gold (Growing Pains) use her experience of battling anorexia to help other women overcome eating disorders. The six hour-long episodes are produced by GRB Entertainment.

The new Lifetime unscripted series join the previously announced The Conversation, with host Amanda de Cadenet and executive produced by Demi Moore, and the docu-series Roseanne’s Nuts, starring Roseanne Barr, from 3 Ball Productions/Eyeworks USA and Full Moon & High Tide Productions.

In addition to Project Runway, Lifetime has also renewed docu-drama One Born Every Minute and military personnel reunion show Coming Home. KA

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CHANNEL: National Geographic Channel (NGC) has a record 13 new series on tap (all with working titles at press time).

Alaska Wing Men follows the pilots who take to the “most dangerous skies in the country,” while Rocked documents the efforts of engineers who secure unstable cliffs and slopes.

Judging by other slates, sheriffs and jousting seem to be hot subject matter for the year ahead, and NGC is coming to the party with Frontier Force, featuring Montana sheriff Mike McKeekin and his team of rugged deputies; and American Knights in the U.S., which follows ex-Navy SEAL Charlie Andrews and his endeavor to bring full-contact jousting to mainstream America.

Forensic experts take center stage in three series, CSI Me, The Truth Behind… and History Cold Case. Scientists get their due in Rocket Men, which features a group of Alabama rocket scientists, and Mad Scientists, which showcases “amateur inventors, weekend scientists and eccentric dreamers.” The Indestructibles brings scientists and experts together with those who have cheated death, while The Link explores the connections between innovations and inventions that shaped our modern world. Drugs Inc. promises a window into the inside workings of the drug business, both legal and illegal, and The Witch Doctor Will See You Now has host Piers Gibbon taking people with serious medical conditions around the world to see if alternative healers can succeed where Western medicine failed.

Specials include Party Like A…, Warrior Graveyard, Who Sank the Lusitania?, Alien Deep, Transparent Ocean, Into the Americas, Empire, How Hard Can It Be?, Journey to the Earth’s Core, Pricing the Priceless and Secrets of the Lost Tomb. BW

NAT GEO WILD: Nat Geo Wild, NGC’s more nature-oriented sister network, celebrated its first year on the air in the U.S. in March. For the year ahead, it has six new series on the sked, as well as 11 specials and three returning series.

America the Wild with Casey Anderson brings the naturalist and host of Expedition Wild back to Nat Geo Wild with a new series, in which he travels to America’s various national parks. Bush Cowboy with Matt Wright features Australian animal conservationist Wright and his dog Nash as they venture to protect some of the Earth’s most dangerous yet endangered creatures, while Man-Eater Manhunt explores similar territory, following cameraman Gordon Buchanan as he enters the hunting grounds of grizzlies, tigers and other predators for new insights into their behaviors.

Dr. Pol’s Big Farm follows Michigan farm veterinarian Dr. Pol as he tends to his 18,000 patients, while Philly Undercover documents the work of a team of Philadelphia police officers rooting out dog-fighting rings and exposing illegal pet traders. As previously announced, the National Geographic Channel hit series Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan will be making the move to Nat Geo Wild, with new episodes slated for early 2012.

Specials on the slate include Animal Superpowers, hosted by Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation; X-Men); the nine-part Destination Wild, which will feature three episodes a piece on the Mississippi River, Brazil and India; Hunt for the Giant Lizard; Kingdom of the Polar Bear; Live Like an Animal; Meerkat Planet; Night Stalkers and Planet of the Lions. Returning series include Caught in the Act, Dangerous Encounters and Swamp Men. BW

TRUTV: New series coming to the Turner Broadcasting-owned network in 2011-2012 include Semi-Pro (w/t), which looks at a season of semi-pro football, from NFL Films; and Motoclash (w/t), a look inside what it takes to compete in one of the longest, most dangerous motorcycle races, from RD Independent Productions and executive producers Tony Scott, Ridley Scott, Mary Lisio and David Zucker of Scott Free.

High Noon Entertainment is producing Guinness World Records (w/t), which follows two Guinness World Record-holding brothers who teach others the ins-and-outs on how to attain that honor, while NorthSouth Productions is tackling Impractical Jokers, a hidden camera show where four lifelong friends must compete in awkward social experiments.

Over-the-top ice sculptures are the focus of Chill, starring a man who goes by “Joey Ice” and his Brooklyn team as they create never-before-seen ice creations. Entertainment One Television and Left/Right produce the series.

Jennifer Lopez’s Nuyorican Productions and Bodega Pictures are behind South Beach Tow, which looks at a family-run towing business in South Beach, while Hollywood Taxi captures in-cab craziness with celebrities and partiers, and is produced by Irwin Entertainment.

Following in the footsteps of Operation Repo, one of the net’s most successful series, Bear Swamp Recovery from Bischoff-Hervey Entertainment focuses on a New Jersey repo business owned by a large Sicilian family.

The network has also acquired exclusive, off-network cable rights to ABC hit Wipeout, which it will debut this fall. KA

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.