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TV Column
Posted at 06:28 PM ET, 04/04/2013

Discovery networks announce new shows at upfront, from ‘Alaskan Women Looking for Love’ to ‘Naked Castaway’


Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda (GEOFF ROBINS - AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Discovery Communicationspresented its new programming dog-and-pony show for advertisers in New York Thursday, unveiling new shows that will air on the various networks under the umbrella of the Silver Spring-based media company.

Some trends emerged.

Trends like live programming.

And scripted miniseries.

Reality series about oil.

Being naked.

And, Florida.

The mothership, Discovery Channel, which boasted it had more series averaging more than 1 million viewers than any other cable network last year, shared with advertisers its plans for “Wallenda Live” featuring Nik Wallenda tightrope walking, without a harness, across the Grand Canyon. Live programming is the next big thing at Discovery.

“Klondike” is the network’s first ever scripted miniseries, based on Charlotte Gray’s book: “Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich in the Klondike” about six strangers and their collective fight for survival and wealth in a small frontier town in the remote Klondike — the area in northwest Canada, east of Alaska, which was known as the site of the Yukon Gold Rush, aka The Last Great Gold Rush.

“Naked and Afraid” is Discovery’s new survival series. It’s kind of like “Survivor,” only in each episode a new pair of strangers find themselves stranded in some harsh environment for 21 days with no food, no water, no tools — and no clothes. Mark Burnett is kicking himself right now.

This is not to be confused with “Naked Castaway” — kind of like that 2000 flick “Cast Away” starring Tom Hanks, only this time it’s Ed Stafford, the first person ever to walk the length of the Amazon River. He’ll be dumped off, alone, and has to survive for 60 days with no food, water, knives or other tools — and he’ll be naked. Robert Zemeckis is kicking himself right now.

Some of the survivalists lucky enough to be dumped in remote locations for our entertainment won’t be naked. Like the participants in “Catch and Release” who will each be dropped into one of the world’s harshest environments and given a maximum of 100 hours to find his or her way back to civilization — with clothing. Even though this show is for Animal Planet, where you’d think the participants would be in their natural state — and that they’d be, you know, animals.

But Animal Planet is these days the Surprisingly Human network, which explains another one of its new series, “Ice Cold Gold,” about miners who are among the first Americans to prospect for precious metals and gems in parts of Greenland where humans have not set foot before. Global warming — woo hoo!

Discovery likes oil as a programming thread — or the old CBS comedy “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Hard to tell. Anyway, it’s got these two new series: “Backyard Oil,” about wildcat oil drilling in Kentucky; “Cutter Oil” is about a small family-run oil company competing against big corporations for black gold in Ohio.

And “The Huntsmen” features the people brought in to pop off wildlife when men are working in the wild and predators come too close to camp. Discovery described them as doing “all they can to keep human/animal interactions at a minimum.”

Florida is well-represented, too. “Alaskan Women Looking for Love,” on TLC, will send five women from Alaska, including some of whom have never before left the state, to Miami in search of “exotic romance.” Similarly, TLC’s “Breaking Amish: Brave New World” spinoff will this time send the gang — Abe, Rebecca, Kate, Sabrina and Jeremiach — to make “a fresh start in Florida.”

Meanwhile, “Investigation Discovery,” bowing to inevitability, has hired Jerry Springer to host new show “Tabloid” to peel back the curtain and reveal the most bizarre tabloid stories. It has an initial order for 10 episodes.

“The thing I like best about television is the opportunity to tell stories…stories that cover the entire range of human experiences and emotions,” said Springer in Tuesday’s announcement. “‘Tabloid’ gives me another chance to do just that.”

By  |  06:28 PM ET, 04/04/2013

 
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