Almost 20 years after High Noon Entertainment CEO Jim Berger produced Animal Planet’s first action-reality series Emergency Vets, the Colorado-based producer is returning to the animal genre and again partnering with the net for Dr. Dee: Alaska Vet.
The series follows veterinarian Dee Thornell as she travels around Alaska – often in a two-seater plane she pilots herself – treating an array of domestic and exotic pets. The November 7 season premiere of the 8 x 60-minute program finds the salty vet hunting for the scat of a domesticated black bear, performing eye surgery on an ailing husky, and in one of the show’s more shocking turns, getting charged by a protective cow.
The Fairbanks-based animal doctor joins a roster of vets on reality television. Nat Geo Wild airs Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet, now in production on its sophomore season, as well as The Incredible Dr. Pol, which wrapped its sixth season earlier this year. Another series, Vet School, premiered on the net this September. Meanwhile, Animal Planet in July debuted Dr. Jeff: Rocky Mountain Vet, following Denver-based vet Jeff Young.
But in a male-dominated genre, Dr. Dee could represent what’s been missing in the space.
“She is distinct because she’s a woman in the wilderness. If you look at all these Alaskan shows, typically all these shows [feature] big, burly macho guys in the wilderness, but here’s Dr. Dee. She’s just as tough as anybody else, and she’s in the middle of nowhere,” says Berger.
The exec says that in the 17 years since Emergency Vets premiered on Animal Planet, little has changed in producing a vet series. The story structure is still relatively the same: an animal drama first, a procedural segment second and a third, light-hearted piece to end. What has changed, however, is how production crews get their stories.
“Twenty years ago, it was a big news crew set in an animal hospital and you wait for the stories to come to you, with a lot of specialists,” said Berger. “Now, with Dr. Dee, she’s going to run out of the clinic, get into the plane and fly, and you’ve got to scramble and keep up with her.”
The cost of production has also increased, despite taking the same five days to shoot an episode. It’s one thing to camp out at a hospital, Berger notes, but it’s another to be flying small planes and chartering all-round vehicles to get around Alaska.
The exec views High Noon’s latest project as coming full circle in reality. Over the course of a year, High Noon is involved in anywhere between 10 and 20 series or specials, with notable series including Cake Boss (TLC), Fixer Upper (HGTV), Mexicanicos (Discovery en Español) and Tough Love (VH1). Now, with a second vet-based show for Animal Planet currently in development, the company is getting back to its roots while further diversifying its slate.
Check out an exclusive clip from Dr. Dee: Alaska Vet, premiering tomorrow (November 7) at 8 p.m. EST/PST. In this clip, Dr. Dee must swoop in to help an obese house cat.