DNI slate includes AirAsia doc, “new-chip” series

A doc about December's AirAsia crash and other aviation disasters, and a "new-chip" series on dogs are among a slate of programming greenlit by Discovery Networks International. (Pictured: Lost and Starving)
March 19, 2015

A documentary about December’s AirAsia crash and other aviation disasters and a “new-chip” series on the natural history of dogs are among a slate of programming greenlit by Discovery Networks International.

Under the leadership of executive VP and chief creative officer Phil Craig - who officially joined the company last month – the roster covers the genres of natural history, engineering, survival, science and aviation.

The ITN Productions-made Terror in the Skies: AirAsia and Beyond (1 x 60 minutes) – set to air next month – details the events of December 28, 2014, when AirAsia flight 8501 and its 155 passengers and seven crew members were lost in a storm 40 minutes into their journey from Indonesia to Singapore. The special reveals “troubling connections” between the accident and 2009′s Air France disaster, and also explores technology designed to prevent such incidents from recurring.

The doc will also feature computer-generated animation aimed at breaking down radar data from the final moments of the flight, while meteorologists will use weather data from the day of the accident to look at the effects of the storm on the Airbus A320. Also included in the doc are exclusive interviews with global experts, including legal representative for the victims’ families.

Terror in the Skies is commissioned by Elizabeth McIntyre and exec produced by Tom Gorham. Ian Russell serves as executive producer for ITN.

Airing this autumn is the Maverick TV-produced Engine Addict with Jimmy de Ville, a 6 x 60-minute series following the engineer as he investigates and repurposes the world’s rare and iconic engines. The series will also show De Ville exploring abandoned factories, junkyards and deserted airfields to unearth combustion engines from around the world. The series is commissioned by Elizabeth McIntyre and exec produced by Victoria Noble for Discovery Networks International, and Dan Goldsack and Jim Sayer for Maverick TV.

Meanwhile, the betty-produced series Lost and Starving (working title) details a variety of strange but potentially life-saving foods. The 6 x 60-minute series sees British chef and restaurateur Matt Tebbutt teaming with Kiwi survivalist Josh James to challenge their survival and culinary skills. In each episode, the men challenge themselves in a new environment in order to show viewers the means to survive in unusual places.

Lost and Starving - slated to air in winter 2016 – was commissioned by Sarah Davies, exec produced by Liz Brach and produced by Rob Holloway for Discovery Networks International. For betty, Tom Sheahan is executive producer with Neil Smith serving as creative director.

Elsewhere, the character-led The Brainy Bunch (w/t) introduces viewers to the personalities and minds behind breakthroughs in science, technology and medicine. The series will feature pioneers in the fields of space, technology, aviation, robotics and design, and include a cast of scholars, engineers, scientists and technicians from renowned institutions. The Brainy Bunch is produced by Lime Pictures and commissioned by Elizabeth McIntyre. Executive producers include Tom Gorham, while Jack Kennedy is exec producing for Lime Pictures.

Finally, Life of Dogs (w/t) is said to represent DNI’s first major natural history commission, made in a style Craig has coined “new-chip,” which the company describes as a “blending of traditional blue chip natural history with a new style of immersive, revelatory storytelling.”

The Plimsoll Productions-made 5 x 60-minute series provides insight into the natural history of dogs by observing dog breeds from across the world in their native settings and in their modern day homes with humans. Life of Dogs examines how the animals have adapted to serve human needs and how each breed has developed unique characteristics to better live and work alongside humans.  The series focuses on dogs at four stages of domestication, including wild dogs, worker dogs, domesticated pet dogs and dogs released back into the wild. The series is commissioned and exec produced by Helen Hawken for Discovery.

The five series and specials are to be broadcast across Discovery’s networks in more than 220 countries and territories in 2015 and 2016.

“I am thrilled to announce some fresh new content that expands the range and loosens the filters on some of our classical factual genres,” said Craig in a statement. “This is just the beginning, as our London production hub starts to incubate new ideas with our independent production partners worldwide.

“Some of this new content is moving to broadcast quickly, like our documentary on the AirAsia tragedy as the current investigation unfolds and the public’s curiosity remains high,” he added. “Others will take more time to develop, as sometimes epic stories need time to unfold.”

In other news, Helen Hawken - the former director of programming for factual at DNI – has been promoted to VP of production and development for factual at the company. In her new role, the exec is to develop and commission both natural history and factual productions for DNI’s London production hub.

Hawken – whose commissioning credits include Meet the SlothsThe Ape Who Went to College and Robson Green’s Ultimate Catch - is to start the position immediately, reporting to Craig.

“Helen has made a terrific impression on me in the short time we have worked together and has been a powerful force in factual programming for many years,” said Craig in a statement. “She has some fantastic ideas for the new style of natural history we are developing here, and for many other genres.”

About The Author