Upfronts 2012: Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Discovery Fit & Health

The blue chip natural history special North America (pictured) and the series Mark Burnett's Alaska will join The Gatekeepers and All The President's Men Revisited on Discovery Channel's 2012-2013 programming slate.
April 5, 2012

A wide-ranging natural history special about North America (pictured) and a Mark Burnett series set in Alaska were among the new programming announcements at Discovery Channel’s upfront presentation in New York City this week.

The cable network’s sister channels Animal Planet and Discovery Fit & Health also unveiled their 2012-2013 slates, which includes two new series for the latter: High School Moms and If They Were My Kids.

Leading Discovery’s specials slate is the blue-chip natural history special North America, which will cover weather, geography and wildlife such as jaguars, spinner sharks, wolves that fish and wolverines; while the series Mark Burnett’s Alaska promises to apply the Survivor producer’s storytelling chops to  “the colorful people, amazing history and unforgettable places” in America’s northernmost state.

Other new shows include Top Engineer, a science and technology competition series that pits engineers against each other in a series of challenges; One Car Too Far, a survivalist show about a British Special Forces operative and an American car junkie that are dropped into far-flung landscapes with little more than a small red car; and Fast and Loud, which stars two mechanics that turn derelict classic cars into gleaming road warriors.

Returning series include Gold Rush, Bering Sea Gold, Deadliest Catch, Flying Wild Alaska, American Chopper, Alaska: The  Final Frontier, Dirty Jobs, Moonshiners, MythBusters, Curiosity, Dual Survival and Auction Kings.

Discovery’s slate of specials includes The Gatekeepers, the previously announced mini-series that looks at the history of the White House chiefs of staff and features interviews with the likes of Rahm Emanuel, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, James A. Baker III, Ken Duberstein, John Sununu and Mack McLarty; All The President’s Men Revisited, a look back at the Watergate scandal presented by actor/director Robert Redford; History of the World, which spans 20,000 years of human history in revisiting key events from ancient China, the Aztec empire, African tribal history, European wars and the industrial revolution; a special that will uncover the fate of disappeared aviator Amelia Earhart; author Mark Bowden’s look at terrorist Osama bin Laden’s impact on geopolitics, entitled Osama: A History; a history of Roswell, New Mexico sector Area 51; and the ever-popular ‘Shark Week.’

Animal Planet’s slate of new programming for 2012-2013 includes the cable network’s first reality competition series Top Hooker, the creature-centric Monster Week and the six-part series Frontier Earth with Dave Salmoni.

Produced by Pilgrim Studios, Top Hooker is a fishing competition series in which teams of expert fishers go head-to-head in a series of “insane, never-before-seen” fishing challenges.

Monster Week will showcase monstrous creatures from returning shows such as River Monsters, Finding Bigfoot and Call of the Wildman, as well as the new special Man-Eating Super Croc and the two-hour CGI special Mermaids: The Body Found.

Large predator expert Dave Salmoni will star in Frontier Earth with Dave Salmoni, a  six-part series about the world’s most enigmatic animals. The series will examine creatures such as the orca, slow loris, tiger, leopard, Komodo dragon and a tribe of ants.

Other new shows include Fish America, featuring pro wrestler Showtime Eric Young in a series of trans-American fishing expeditions; Glory Hounds, about working military dogs and their human counterparts on duty in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan; Polar Bear Family and Me, which follows wildlife filmmaker Gordon Buchanan as he infiltrates a family of polar bears in order to gain the trust of a cub; and Rhino Wars, about a group of private game reserves that band together and recruit former U.S. special forces operatives to take down poachers in South Africa.

These are joined by The Afterlife: Elephant and The Afterlife: Hippo, two specials about a fallen elephant and a dying hippopotamus, respectively; The Hunger, a special about traditional hunters starring host Guy Grieve; Treehouse Men, about an “elite team” of designers, carpenters and builders that creates elaborate treehouses in the backyards of the rich; and Wild Arabia, a natural history special set in the deserts of Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen and Wild Hawaii, which puts the spotlight on exotic wildlife living in and around the Pacific island state.

Returning series and specials include Bad Dog, Call of the Wildman, Finding Bigfoot, Gator Boys, Hillbilly Handfishin’, My Cat From Hell, River Monsters, Pit Boss, Pit Bulls & Paroles, Puppy Bowl: IX, Tanked, Too Cute! and Whale Wars.

Finally, Discovery Fit & Health will debut two new series this year. High School Moms is a reality show set in a Colorado high school populated exclusively by teen moms and follows a group of girls as they balance schoolwork with sonograms; while If They Were My Kids is a swap-type reality show about siblings with differing parenting philosophies that take care of each others’ kids. The two shows will join returning series Addicted, Secretly Pregnant, My Naked Secret and Untold Stories of the ER.

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.