Discovery Channel and Animal Planet are the big beasts of Discovery Communications’ portfolio of channels. Discovery Channel unveiled 25 new shows and 17 returning series at its Upfront last week, its most ever for a new season. As well as the new shows, there is also the twenty-fifth anniversary version of Discovery staple, Shark Week, which was presented at the Upfront by Discovery’s chief shark officer and Saturday Night Live comedian Andy Samberg. Animal Planet had 14 new series and 12 returning shows.
Penn & Teller’s Secrets of the Universe
Magicians Penn & Teller put on a show at the Discovery Upfront to promote their new series Secrets of the Universe. At one point Penn cut Teller in half, only to reveal Discovery’s ad sales president Joe Abruzzese in the bottom of the box. In each episode of Secrets of the Universe the pair tackle ten outrageous questions- can you lift a 5,000 pound car with a human hair? and what music causes alligators to have sex? for example – and the audience has to guess which one is the out and out lie.
Verdict: Penn & Teller are still top showmen and the format provides a decent platform for their outrageous talents.
Life on a Wire
The show follows Nik Wallenda, a high-wire specialist, as he performs death-defying stunts. Wallenda’s extended family, many of whom are circus performers, are also featured as he completes various daredevil acts.
Verdict: A reality series for Man on Wire fans.
Best in the Business
Three jobs are highlighted in each episode in a show that ‘celebrates the crème de la crème of the American workforce’. Discovery said the show turns the spotlight on not-so-average people taking their everyday jobs to the next level.
Verdict: Discovery has a job on its hands to make a show about regular folks doing everyday work stand out in the schedules.
A series about noodling, which, for the uninitiated, is where people catch catfish with their bare hands and feet. In the show, city dwellers are taken to Oklahoma where they are taught how to catch the fish by self-proclaimed hillbilly Skipper Bivins.
Verdict: Got a great response at the Discovery Upfront and has this redneck lifestyle series has the makings of a surprise hit.
Mermaids: The Body Found
Animal Planet showed early footage of its CGI-laden mermaid series. The two-hour special investigates the mysterious unidentified underwater creatures that the US military found in the 1990s.
Verdict: Glossy, high-end special looks like it will be a buzz-worthy event piece for Animal Planet.
Lion Kings of Las Vegas (WT)
The show follows the Fercos, a Las Vegas family of big cat tamers who are “determined to ascend the entertainment throne once occupied by Siegfried and Roy”. The younger members of the family are about to be handed the reins of the family business in this show.
Verdict: Will live or die on the Fercos’ ability lift this beyond another fact-ent/reality series about an out-there family.