Discovery expected to give blessing to travelogue starring Sarah Palin

By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, March 24, 2010; C01

After trying, apparently unsuccessfully, to sell a travelogue TV series about Alaska that . . . zzzzzzzzzzzz . . .

Oh sorry, where was I?

Oh yes: After trying unsuccessfully to sell to the broadcast networks a travelogue series about Alaska that would feature none other than SARAH PALIN, reality-TV king Mark Burnett appears to be in negotiations with Discovery Communications about placing the Palin "reality series" there.

Discovery is expected to announce soon that it's getting into bed with the former Alaska governor for this limited-run series.

Evidently, Palin will serve as sort of modern-day Sacagawea. She'll guide viewers around Alaska to meet the "characters, tradition and attractions in the 49th state," trade paper Variety reported Tuesday -- almost as if it had its hands on the news release.

Earlier this month, Burnett, best known for executive-producing CBS's "Survivor" and NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice," shopped the show around in Los Angeles, with Palin, to the broadcast networks for a reported price of about $1 million an episode, which is a lot of lettuce for a salmon-fishing and moose-skinning travelogue.

The broadcast networks appear to have passed because the show is not called "The Palins," and it is not about Palin, her unwed daughter Bristol and baby Tripp, her potshot-taking nearly son-in-law Levi, her hot-looking husband Todd, and her baby with Down syndrome whom we all fell in love with during the 2008 presidential race, Trig.

"If it was 'The Osbournes,' and they were going to follow [Palin's] family, then it would be interesting," one broadcast exec said, sadly, as if mourning what might have been.

"It's a travelogue," he said.

"About the state of Alaska," he added.

Later on, the Palin-show pitching seemed to focus on A&E network -- home of "Dog the Bounty Hunter," "Kirstie Alley's Big Life" and "Gene Simmons Family Jewels" -- as well as Discovery Channel, the Silver Spring-based home of the new BBC co-production "Life," as well as shows like "Mythbusters" and "Dirty Jobs."

But A&E bowed out last week, trades reported.

That left everyone waiting for Discovery's announcement and speculating as to what it all means for Palin's possible 2012 presidential bid.

Discovery executives did not return calls or e-mails; many were in Chicago for their so-called "mini-upfront" to promote forthcoming shows to advertisers.

Kate steps it up

Kate Gosselin's still got it!

Performing to a bigger broadcast audience, the TLC reality-show luminary proved that she has the makings of a true Hollywood star when she catapulted ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" to its biggest opening audience ever.

More than 24 million people watched the two-hour spring-season debut Monday night, according to Nielsen stats.

America's Most Put Upon Mother, whose talents clearly have been squandered in the small-potatoes landscape of TLC's "Jon & Kate Plus 8," waltzed to the Billy Joel tune "She's Always a Woman to Me," while dressed in one of Barbara Eden's "I Dream of Jeannie" costumes (don't blame me, that's ABC News's description). She was accompanied by her "good-natured professional partner" (ABC's description) Tony Dovolani, who has our condolences.

The latest Gosselin triumph outperformed last spring's "Dancing" debut, which had been the show's highest-rated debut ever, clocking around 11 million fans.

But, most impressive, Gosselin's "Dancing" debut attracted ABC's biggest Monday 8 to 10 p.m. crowd in about 10 years (excluding the 2001 Monday Rose Bowl broadcast). To match a non-Rose Bowl audience of more than 24 million on ABC in that time slot, you have to go all the way back to one Monday night in May 2000 when the network aired "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" followed by the first hour of "Arabian Nights" -- one of those Robert Halmi orgy-of-excess miniseries that used to pollute the primetime landscape.

Mysteriously, Gosselin's waltz received the third lowest score from the show's professional judges. On the bright side, she finished with more points than thespian Aiden Turner and that nice astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who is this year's token Old Celebrity on the show. Each week, the judges' scores are combined with viewer voting to determine which celebrity dancer gets the hook, until only one is left, who is awarded a giant disco ball.

ABC suits are now slapping each other on the back for deciding to make some changes to this edition of the dance competition, like slimming down the number of celebrity competitors to a more reasonable number -- hence this spring's slightly later start date.

Monday's debut also introduced Tom Bergeron's new straight-woman, Brooke Burke, who had won an earlier edition of "Dancing," though you may know her better for her tour de force performances on "Las Vegas," "Less Than Perfect" or "It's All Relative." Burke replaced Samantha Harris as co-host of the cheesetastic dance derby so Harris could focus on being a correspondent on the syndicated celebrity suck-up show "The Insider."

Gosselin is at the top of the list of dancing "celebrities" who also have been getting credit for helping goose interest in this edition of the show, including Pamela Anderson and Erin Andrews.

And in one of those incredible ironies that make the business of covering TV so metaphysical, the dance performance of Andrews, ESPN's Peeping-Tom Victim, tied for third place in the judges' voting with the performance of Anderson -- the gents' magazine world's favorite clothing-taker-off-er.

More good news for ABC: Approximately half the "Dancing" audience stuck around to watch "Castle" at 10, giving the series its biggest audience ever. Also a first: "Castle" beat CBS's "CSI: Miami" (10.8 million viewers) when both programs were airing original episodes.

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