With ‘Klondike,’ Discovery explores the scripted-program frontier

December 11, 2012

Silver Spring-based Discovery network has joined the march of nonfiction cable networks to the land of scripted programming. But Discovery has not strayed far from home: That first project is a miniseries about prospecting for gold.

“Klondike,” based on Charlotte Gray’s novel “Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich in the Klondike,” follows six strangers and their fight for survival and wealth in a small, remote frontier town in the late 19th century.

“Discovery created and owns the ‘gold’ narrative with several of our hit series,” Eileen O’Neill, president of the Discovery and TLC networks, said by way of explaining why the network — which had been dancing around the scripted genre for some time — ultimately decided that this one was the “perfect fit.”

By “created and owns the ‘gold’ narrative,” O’Neill means, of course, the reality series “Gold Rush” (which hit another ratings high last week), as well as “Bering Sea Gold,” “Jungle Gold,” etc.

Gold is a Discovery channel thing.


Dave Hester in front of the Rags to Riches thrift store in Costa Mesa, Calif. Hester has sued A&E Television Networks, claiming he was fired from the show after complaining that producers had planted valuable items in some of the lockers featured on the reality series. (Jeremy Cowart/Associated Press/A&E)

Paul Scheuring (“Prison Break,” “A Man Apart”) is the primary writer and will serve as the project’s exec producer.

“ ‘Klondike’ was the last great gold rush; it triggered a flood of prospectors ill-equipped, emotionally or otherwise, for the extreme and grueling conditions of the remote Yukon wilderness,” said Ridley Scott, one of the show’s producers.

“The personal adventures are as epic as the landscape, where ambition, greed, sex and murder, as well as their extraordinary efforts to literally strike it rich, are all chronicled by a young Jack London himself,” Scott name-dropped — the “White Fang” and “The Call of the Wild” author being among the characters at the heart of the book on which the miniseries is based.

Last May, when History channel debuted the first part of its three-part miniseries about the Hatfield-McCoy feud, it nabbed an average of 14 million viewers, making it the most-watched single broadcast on ad-supported cable ever, excluding sports. It also bagged 16 Emmy nominations, culminating in five wins, including lead actor (Kevin Costner) and supporting actor (Tom Berenger).

Paging Lorre (again)

Regarding your question as to whether CBS will be able to beat another season out of “How I Met Your Mother”: The network has commissioned Chuck Lorre to shoot a pilot on yet another sitcom just in case. It’s about a newly sober single mother — in wine country!

Lorre is the guy behind the current CBS comedies “Two and a Half Men,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “Mike & Molly.”

CBS is looking to shore up its comedy stable. Its Monday comedies have taken a ratings hit against NBC’s “The Voice” (moving “Men” out of that night didn’t help, either); its new comedy “Partners” already is canceled; and the future of its only other new comedy for this season, “Friend Me,” looks dubious after the death of a co-creator.

Then there’s “HIMYM,” on which many contracts will run out at the end of this season. CBS suits have made clear their hope to bring back the show in the fall.

Meanwhile, Lorre’s new comedy — about the newly sober mom living in Napa — takes him back to dangerous territory: sitcoms that have female leads.

Lorre’s the guy who famously cut his teeth on “Roseanne,” then developed comedies for Brett Butler and Cybill Shepherd, and summed it all up to Entertainment Weekly by saying, “All that toxicity, ugliness and anger was the reason to create a character like [‘Dharma & Greg’s’] Dharma.’’

‘Storage Wars’ lawsuit

Last month, when Radar reported that A&E’s grumpy “Storage Wars” bidder David Hester was not being asked back for Season 4 — because producers got wind of fakery allegations and decided Hester was at the root of them — it was widely speculated in TV circles that this would wind up in court.

It has wound up in court.

Hester’s camp claims that its client was axed when he complained to producers about alleged rigging, according to the suit, which was given to the TV industry publication of record, TMZ.

“A&E has committed a fraud on the public and its television audience in violation of the Communications Act of 1934, which makes it illegal for broadcasters to rig a contest of intellectual skill with the intent to deceive the viewing public,” Hester’s suit claims.

“A&E regularly plants valuable items or memorabilia,” it continues. In the lawsuit, Hester also claims that the producer has gone “so far as to stage entire storage units.”

Among Hester’s claims: A BMW was buried under a pile of trash in one locker; old newspapers announcing the death of Elvis Presley were planted in another.

“When [Hester] complained to producers that A&E’s fraudulent conduct of salting and staging the storage lockers was possibly illegal, he was fired from the series,” the suit alleged.

Hester’s wrongful-termination suit was filed in Superior Court in Los Angeles.

He also claims that the show gave less-pretty regulars money for plastic surgery to make them more appealing (which hardly seems worth mentioning).

“We do not comment on pending litigation,” a rep for A&E told The TV Column on Tuesday.

To read previous columns by de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/ tvblog.

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