UPDATED: Tonight, Discovery Communications’ owned and operated networks will look to dazzle advertisers with an array of new shows and high-profile celebrities — including an appearance from the queen of media herself Oprah Winfrey — during the company’s upfront presentation in New York.
But two shows expected to be announced at the upfront from Discovery’s TLC and Animal Planet networks featuring former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson respectively have already grabbed national headlines — as well as the attention of several groups hoping to shut the projects down even before the cameras begin to roll.
Environmentally friendly website Care2 recently launched a petition authored by one Nathan Farmer that’s focused on stopping TLC from airing its new Mark Burnett-produced reality series Sarah Palin’s Alaska. The series features the former Republican vice presidential nominee as she tours her home state for the cameras.
The petition calls for a boycott of all Discovery-owned channels if the series airs, due to Palin’s “policies,” such as “her lack of belief in evolution,” and her “ugly record of animal rights abuses.” The petition currently has over 7,500 online signatures with a stated goal of 50,000.
TLC and Discovery executives declined to comment on the petition.
Meanwhile Animal Planet is dodging punches thrown by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) over the network’s decision to produce a new Brooklyn-based series, Taking On Tyson, focusing on pigeon racing and starring the former bad boy of boxing. On March 18 the organization sent a letter to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office requesting that it investigate the reality show for potential illegal gambling offenses related to the “sport” of pigeon racing, in which homing pigeons are pitted against each other.
Animal Planet responded in a statement saying that the show has no plans “for wagering on the pigeon races,” adding that “all of the pigeons that we will feature in the program are cherished and respected by their owners, including Mr. Tyson.”
While both shows will undoubtedly draw detractors regardless of how they’re positioned by the networks, ultimately the viewing public — not special interest groups — should be afforded the opportunity to determine whether or not the shows should be KO’d.
Palin is not scheduled to attend Discovery’s upfront, although Tyson is rumored to take the stage tonight. Other high profile celebs are expected to be front and center including Jon and Kate Plus 8 star turned Dancing With The Stars contestant Kate Gosselin and Winfrey, who is expected to announce that she will host a new series for her OWN; Oprah Winfrey Network. It all should make for a very interesting evening.